On Going Challenges

I began the year talking about Challenges.  I want people to view a challenge as something positive that they want to achieve.  This weekend though, things happened that offered more to think about.

The Grander Scheme

We experience many challenges to overcome that aren’t things we necessarily want to achieve.  The loss of #Kobe Bryant, his daughter, and his other friends this weekend (1/26/2020) will bring many challenges for his family, friends, and community to overcome.  The #impeachment trial in the Senate, regardless of the outcome, will bring new challenges for the country and likely the world.  Today’s #Holocaust Remembrance Day brings to mind challenges for all of humanity to overcome.

Please keep this in mind…throughout our history, we have all been able to surmount these and many other difficult problems.   We surmount challenges especially well when we pull together to help each other out.  Even in the height of tragedy and despair, our challenges result in positive growth.

Balance and fairness

Going forward, what do we want to achieve?  I’m certain we all have different lists.  But let’s think about challenging ourselves first to do better with balance.  As I think of balance, it includes wellness, work/life, and fairness.

Fairness:  pay gaps and wealth inequality

We should be paying people fairly and equally for the work we ask them to do.  Last August, CNBC reported that “since 1978, CEO compensation rose 1,007.5% for CEOs, compared with 11.9% for average workers, according to the Economic Policy Institute.”  Good critical thinking forces us to examine the source.  Both CNBC and EPI lean politically to the left.  In many instances, I’m certain the pay is fair for both the CEO and the hourly worker, but the numbers themselves suggest growth rates like that aren’t fair.   Is this contributing to a widening wealth gap?   The Cato Institute, which leans politically to the right, dispels a couple of wealth myths but lands hard on cronyism.  It’s a well-written piece that will help in your overall critical thinking about these things.

In the Federal Reserve Study of the widening wealth gap, there is also growing disparity in pay for white verses minority workers.  There also seems to be a persistent gender pay gap.  Women only earn 82% of what men earn according to AAUW in this recent article.

I believe there are lots of factors that influence pay decisions that organizations make.  Many of them are poorly defined but well within the organization’s authority to change.  Of course that change requires the will to change.

Critical Thinking

I simply want to urge more critical thinking around policy making and decision making in government and organizations.  Maybe that should be my challenge to you:  Before making any decisions that affect other people, gather as many perspectives as a reasonable amount of time will allow.  I found and scanned through all these cited articles online within an hour.  Layout the options and share them with a few others.  Try to include some who are outside of your current circle and who you know will think differently.

It really is up to us in workplaces around the world to have better conversations and better dialogue about things that affect us.  We certainly can’t do it on Facebook or Twitter where civility goes to die.  With our apparently hardening political differences, if we don’t learn to dialogue more effectively, I think we’re in for some far worse problems and greater challenges.

 

Visionary?

We often throw out quite a few terms when we talk about leadership:

Transformational Leadership
Authentic Leadership
Charismatic Leadership
Inspirational Leadership
Visionary Leadership

We spend tons of money listening to speakers, professors, coaches, etc. to become those kinds of leaders.  What I’ve noticed over the years are a couple of things:

  1. We don’t really listen. We mostly agree with what those speakers, professors, and coaches say and conclude “Yep, that’s me.  That’s how I do it.”
  2. We don’t really change, because we don’t think we are the problem.

Leadership BS

In “Leadership BS,” Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer says when he searched for “leadership” using Google Scholar in 2013, he found 2,640,000 entries.  His search for “leadership” on Google produced 148 million links.  His search on Amazon returned 117,000 entries.  When I searched Google this morning (January 3, 2020) I got “About 6,020,000,000 results (0.80 seconds)”.  I got “1-16 of over 40,000 results…” when I searched Amazon for Leadership books.

Yet with all this stuff over all these years trying to teach leaders how to be better leaders, Gallup still reports that 66% of working people report they are either disengaged at work (53%) or “actively” disengaged (13%.)  How can this be?  Maybe the more appropriate response is WTF?

I’m not going to try to “fix” this with this short blog post.  What I want to do here is to offer you a device that can help you sort out what kind of leader you want to become and how you can get some help to become that leader from the only source that matters…the people closest to you.  Whether family, friends, coworkers, or employees, these are the people who see you when you can’t see yourself.  Once you see yourself, then you will find something to change about the way you work and lead.  Then, you might want to engage a coach (or therapist) to help you build strategies and hold you accountable.

Dynamic Stability

The foundation of the organization of the future is dynamic stability.  Our processes and systems have to be stable enough to allow enough repetitious performance to improve the skills of our people, and dynamic enough to change quickly in response to changes in the environment.  That change needs to allow us to achieve a new level of stability quickly or we end up with churn and chaos from constant, unregulated change.  After 19 years of thinking about this, I’ve learned the four things that create dynamic stability are:

  • Leadership mindset
  • Learning organizations
  • Team-based work structures, and
  • Mutual trust.

The Leadership Mindset

The leadership mindset, though, is the prerequisite for all the others.  The leadership mindset has four key components:  Vision, Values, Commitment, and Discipline.  Together with the mission (which should provide your meaningful purpose), these form the operating philosophy of the organization.

Your vision as a leader, should reflect things that you want personally, and things you want for your work.  For you personally, this vision should motivate you to get up every morning and get going.  It could be that you want to find the perfect mate, or that you want your name on a building.  For a leader of an organization, though, it should be inspiring and motivate action.  People should want to pursue the vision with you.  In that light, wanting your name on a building seems pretty selfish, so while it might be fine to motivate you, it is unlikely that it’ll motivate others.  In short, the vision has to be tailored to the target audience whether it’s an audience of one (you) or many.

Vision Exercise

Check out the attached vision exercise.  1_Sharing your Vision 2020

Find someone you can pair up with and work through it together, then find a way to apply what you learn from it.  I have to give credit to the Disney Institute for the attached.  Even though I’ve modified it, I completed the original exercise there in October 2001.  I’m still working on it.

If you have any questions, or would like some help sorting this out, give me a shout at david@dveech.com.

Happy new year and Happy new decade!

Happy new year and Happy new decade!

With every new year, millions make pledges to themselves to renew, refresh, reshape, and rethink.   Of course, by February, the vast majority are forgotten – swallowed by the reality of our very busy lives.

Change – again

Change in organizations is extremely difficult because change in people is extremely difficult.  But we change.   Let’s also face the truth that we will need to handle more change in the future than we have in the past.  I can say that with confidence because of our history.   Humans have lived through a distinct pattern of increasing technological change at an increasing rate of change over the millennia.

I often ask groups in workshops to make a list of the greatest challenges they think their organizations will face in the coming 30 years.  I encourage you to think about this as well.  It is, of course, pretty easy to simply acknowledge that we have no idea what the next 30 years will hold.  Most of us are stretching to go out five years.

Some input from groups looking into the future

The one thing I consistently notice in these listing exercises is the tone of the group as they brainstorm.  In every case, the challenges that people list are problems, not opportunities. As such, there is a distinctly negative tone, as in “we dread having to face this coming problem”.  On an individual level, its often the same.  We promise ourselves that we’re going to lose 30 pounds, exercise every day, get a raise, or some other problem we know we’re going to dread when we come to face it.

From Negative to Positive

What would happen if we spun these more positively?  How would it change your attitude if instead of thinking about overcoming things you dread, you think about accomplishing something exciting?  Practically speaking, these could be the same things, but our attitude can help us stay on track or push us off track.  To me, the thought of having to get up every morning and work out is more dreadful than setting a goal to walk at least 2 half marathons every month.  I can promote my chances of success by scheduling and paying entry fees for those races, putting extra, reinforcing pressure on me to go exercise so they don’t kill me on race day.

You can also select a beautiful race venue as a reward for completing a goal you have yet to achieve.  Last year, in January, I entered two half marathons over the Lake Tahoe Marathon weekend in October.  I had knee replacement surgery on January 31, so the money I spent on the races motivated me to work harder during my recovery physical therapy and on long training walks before October.

Goals for 2020-2021

So here are some of my goals this year:

  • Over the next 2 years, complete a half marathon in all 50 states.  I’m thinking about adding the US territories like the Virgin Islands and Guam too, as well as all 7 Canadian Provinces.
  • Lose 6 pounds a month for the first 4 months of the year to get down to and maintain a target weight of 190 lbs.
  • Read more:  At least one book or book summary every month
  • Write more:  At least 2 blog posts a month and finish a new book on problem solving and get an article published in a reputable business journal like HBR.
  • Speak more:  At least one presentation a month, whether to a small group, or a large conference.

Tell me what you want to accomplish.  How are you going to challenge yourself in this new decade?