Who Do You Choose to Ride With?

As much time as I spend in a vehicle getting from one place to another, I can’t help but notice the differences in the way we all drive.

From my perspective, I’m convinced that the way someone drives is a pretty accurate reflection of their personality and approach to life in general.

For example, regardless of the speed limit, some drivers are always going to go a few miles slower and never move over for oncoming traffic. That’s their pace and they simply won’t change. Given a choice, I’d never choose to ride with that individual because my sense of urgency is way too high.

Conversely, some drivers are always going to go faster, but I wouldn’t necessarily always choose to ride with that individual. Why? Because maybe that person doesn’t use turn signals before switching lanes, doesn’t slow down for emergency vehicles, is more prone to run a red light than slowing for a yellow, rarely looks in the rear view or side view mirrors to see where everyone else is and tailgates anyone who gets in their way.

So, who would I choose to ride with?

It would be with someone that knows beforehand where they’re going, what route they want to take, how much time it will take, what has to be done when they get there, and how to get back and forth as safely, effectively and efficiently as possible.

When working with other leaders, the question I’m asked most often is ‘How do you identify someone that you would make a significant investment of time in getting them to the next level?’ In other words, ‘Who do you choose to ride with?’

As it is with drivers, so I feel it is with people in general. They fall into three categories: (1) Those, who no matter what you do, will always stay in one place. (2) Those, who no matter what you do, will always put others at risk. (3) Those, who (without needing much motivation) measure themselves against what’s required and then, regardless of circumstances, find a way to exceed expectations and accomplish what’s required.

When leading a team, it’s tempting to slow things down for the people that are slowing everyone else down. However, what I’ve found is that when I speed up instead of slowing down, those who really want to will speed up, as well.

Truth Be Told, those are the ones I choose to spend my time with.

How Thin is Your Ice?

When something goes wrong (like losing your job), how do you respond? When your position feels secure because you’re aware that you’re delivering value on a continuum, you can handle some change and adjustment. You also learn that freaking out pays little benefit.

On the other hand, when you’re aware that you’re easily replaced because you’re delivering no value, you can often indulge in the urge to freak out, panic, fear and even hate on anyone that’s easier to blame than yourself.

With that mindset, you’ll always be on thin ice. Just remember that thin ice can only bear so much weight. The first and best step is toward more solid footing, where you can feel more secure.

Truth Be Told, the only way to do that is by staying calm and using whatever support you can find to get there as quickly as possible.

If You Want to Bring About Change, Find a Cohort!

There are two typical approaches to change.

  1. The first is to try and change just one person at a time, which is the safest approach. Why? Because if you fail, no one will notice.
  2. The second is to try and change everyone, which is futile because there really isn’t an ‘everyone’ any more. Why? Because there’s too much noise and certainly entirely too many narratives. In fact, if your approach is to try and change everyone, all you’ve really done is given up.

In my experience, I’ve found that a third alternative is where change comes about. It’s in finding a cohort of people who want to change together. It’s in organizing, teaching and leading them towards the change you want to bring about.

Oh, by the way, it has to be a change they’ve bought into because it aligns with their personal core values and beliefs.

In fact, a cohort is just that: a group that has a number of personal, statistical and empirical factors in common. When a group like this is in sync, the change is reinforcing. In other words, when people see how your message of change resonates with everyone in their circle of influence, they’re more likely to not only completely buy in, but to become agents of change themselves.

Truth Be Told, if you want to bring about change, begin by changing culture because that’s what making change really is. Begin by organizing a tightly knit group. Begin by getting people in sync. Begin by finding a cohort you can do battle with!

EIQ: Are You Investing in Others?

At times, the work we do is an emotional investment. It’s work we don’t necessarily feel like doing but it’s the work of being a professional; of engaging with others in a way that leads to the best long-term outcome.

The work of listening when we’d rather yell. The work of trying to save someone instead of firing them. The work of seeking out facts and accurate information to ensure accurate decisions are made. The work of simply being prepared.

It’s demanding work because it creates value and knowing that it’s our job to create value helps us pause a second and decide to do the difficult, emotional work.

Truth Be Told, I don’t think anyone ever gets hired to work without some emotional investment. Do you?

What’s Your DNA?

Their first rule is to follow the rules.

It’s always been that way! That’s the DNA of obedient organizations, of which there are many. They follow the rules and the system, not because they’re up-to-date, effective or even right, but because that’s what makes them who they are. Obedience is required, prized and it does have it’s rewards. It ensures a reliable simplicity that gives the illusion of unity and the perception of strength.

So, what’s the alternative? Maybe it’s an organization based on inquiry, where it’s still required to do what’s right, but also to ask useful questions. It’s a flexible organization that’s more likely to create and deal with change over time. It has more effective meetings because those useful questions are not only being asked, they’re required to be asked.

Obedient organizations may or may not get better when they find more obedient team members and require them to follow the rules and work within the system.

Truth Be Told, organizations based on inquiry get better when they ask better questions, and when they create a culture based not only on what’s right, but on what’s better.

Just Look It Up!

Of course, for millions of years before people could even talk, they couldn’t just look it up because there was nothing to look up. There was no reading or writing and all you knew was what you knew, along with what you could watch someone else do and then copy what you observed.

With writing came notes, records and books and with training and effort, there were things that you could look up. All of a sudden, knowledge began to compile and there were millions of books and card catalogs. But looking up most things was time consuming and too often coming up empty in the process.

As recently as twenty years ago, the only way to find something in a book was via an index, which certainly gave hints, but it lived only in the book itself. The current era of on-demand, widespread looking things up offers a whole new level of insight for those that care enough to take advantage of it. Unfortunately, most people don’t.

Most organizations, most leaders, most scientists, most doctors; in fact most professionals hesitate to look it up. Why? Because we’re not sure exactly what to look up, not sure of what we don’t know, not sure of what might be out there.

It still takes talent and time to find the right thing in the right place at the right time. The next frontier is already starting to happen. The system looks it up before we even realize it needs looking up. The system knows that these test results combined with that medical history is worth a deeper look. The system knows that this house was recently sold for a fraction of what’s being asked. All of us are smarter than any of us, and when you throw in the us that came before, the opportunities multiply.

But you know what has to come first? We need to care enough to want to know.

Truth Be Told, we call that Leadership!

Where Do You Spend Your Time?

There are three ways to add value:

  1. Tasks, which is all about doing something.
  2. Decisions, which is all about choosing something.
  3. Initiation, which is all about starting something.

It’s helpful to know that one of these three is consistently more prized than the other.

Tasks are set up for everyone and they’re incoming all the time. For the most part, we use skill and effort to eliminate them one at a time and keep moving on to the next one. Most of us spend our time here.

Decisions ( at times) overlap with tasks. There are always alternatives, and we use wisdom, knowledge, maturity and judgment to pick the best one. Some of us spend our time here.

Initiation is what happens when we start something out of nothing, break a pattern, launch a new idea, or take a big leap forward. Very few of us spend our time here.

When we think about those who make change happen, or cultural shifts that really matter, we must begin with initiation. Where did you spend your time adding value yesterday?

Just as or more important is where will you spend it tomorrow?

Creating Value Can Be An Oxymoron

It’s kind of ironic to me that a lot of myths are still taught in the classroom that spill over to conventional wisdom.

For instance, it’s still put forth that human beings make rational decisions that are considered to be in their best interest long term. Actually, behavioral economics shows us that people almost never do this. Our decision-making systems are unpredictable, inconsistent and often wrong.

Just take a look at the last two years of politics as a prime example. The fact is, we’re for the most part, easily distracted, and even more easily conned. Every time we assume that people are independent, rational actors, we’ve made a mistake.

Our way of life in general only works because it has boundaries, rules and methods of enforcement, and those have been stretched to the breaking point, again over the last two years.

The value of anything is created by increasing the flow of information and working to have as many of us contributing as possible. Making a profit is a great way to measure short-term imbalances that are not necessarily of value, especially in the long-term.

For example, a caring nurse in the pediatric oncology ward adds more value than a well-paid cosmetic plastic surgeon doing augmentations. People with more money might pay more, but that doesn’t equate to value. It might in the eyes of the person having the surgery because there’s no point of reference for the patient in the oncology ward.

The best way to measure value created is to just measure the value itself. If the purpose of anything becomes to maximize profit rather than value, and we can consider that profit may not be the best measure of value created, then I think we can agree that it does create inconsistency at best.

Things like a living wage, sustainability, fairness and their meanings matter even more. When we consider how to advance our culture, the last question we should be asking is ‘Will it hurt profits?’ The first question we should be asking is ‘Will it make a difference in the quality of our lives for everyone affected?’

There’s very little correlation with how the analysts value a company in the market and how much value that company actually creates. Is the only purpose of a company to maximize long-term shareholder value? Is the only purpose of your career to maximize lifetime income?

If a company is the collective work of humans, we ought to measure the value that those humans seek to create.

Truth Be Told, just because there’s a number (like profit) that’s easy to read, easy to manipulate, and easy to keep track of, doesn’t mean it’s the only relevant measure!

Soft Skills? Really?

I’ve always disliked the term ‘soft skills’ as long as I can remember.

There’s nothing soft about terminating someone’s employment. There’s nothing soft about moving someone out of one job into another, especially if they don’t want to. There’s nothing soft about giving someone a below-standard appraisal. There’s nothing soft about withholding someone’s compensation because they’re not meeting the standard. There’s nothing soft about telling the employees they didn’t qualify for the annual incentive.

There’s nothing soft about requiring someone to apply for disability. There’s nothing soft about suspending someone pending an investigation. There’s nothing soft about notifying someone they don’t qualify for benefits they thought they had. There’s nothing soft about cutting someone’s hours to bring the payroll in. There’s nothing soft about telling someone they don’t have enough PTO accrued to take time off because they can’t afford child care.

Finally, but certainly not the last or the least, there’s nothing soft about spending hours talking with employees to ensure they’re being listened to.

Truth Be Told, these are not soft skills. They’re real skills, and you know what else? The higher up the Leadership ladder you go, the more often these skills are delegated because, in all honesty, the operational skills are much easier to employ.

Or maybe it’s just easier to delegate the ‘hard stuff’ to someone else.

Soft skills? You can’t be serious.

We All Have A Choice!

Attitude is the most important choice any of us will make. We made it last year and we get another chance to make it again this year.

The choice to participate; to be optimistic and to intentionally bring out the best in other people. The choice to inquire, to be curious, to challenge the status quo. The choice to give people the benefit of the doubt. The choice to find hope instead of fear at every turn.

Of course, these are attitudes. What else could they be? Of course, attitudes are a choice. What else could they be?

No one does these things to us. We choose these things, We do the work and we find the benefits that come with them. The only victims that don’t have a choice are children and indefensible seniors.

The rest of us are not victims.

Truth Be Told, the rest of us have a choice.