Be Happy D**N It! Mandatory Optimism in the Workplace?

Here’s a really interesting video lecture from RSA Animate with author/activist Barbara Ehrenreich.  The format is fascinating.  You hear Barbara talking as you watch video of an artist’s interpretation of the lecture.  Really fun.  The content is challenging as well.  Was the positive thinking approach largely responsible for the economic meltdown in America??  It might be (?) a little tongue-in-cheek (?) or maybe not.  What about at work?  Does my job description include me accomplishing my project to-do lists AND spreading warmth and good cheer along the way like one of Santa’s corporate elves?  How about all those naysayers who disagree with the party line?  Is it time for a happy class? Fun and stimulating thoughts.  Watch it if you’ve ever been involved in training, had someone tell you that you need to be more optimistic, felt like telling everyone around to be happy at work or been one of “those people” who are always looking at the worse-case-scenario.  🙂

Watching Grass (and Teams) Grow

I do a lot of training and consulting (ahem, hence the name of my company) regarding teams, team-building, team development, increasing trust in teams – basically, a lot of things team.  One of the questions I get asked often is how long this xyz process or abc training will take to “work?”  This is a legitimate and important question.  My response?  It depends. Step back from teams for a minute and let’s talk about grass, nice, fluffy, green backyard grass (of course!).

Ever since I got some chickens and talapia I’ve been hard at work on my backyard, watering, planting, weeding, fertilizing. It’s going on 6 months now and I can FINALLY start to see some areas of green – not a lot, but enough to know that my watering, weeding, fertilizing, etc. is doing something.

Teams and team-building works the same.  Teams require trust like lawns require water.  Trust takes time to build.  Want to build trust?  Then work on doing what you said you would do for a long time.  The longer you do that the stronger the trust.  It’s credibility and it’s built the old-fashioned way – long and slow.  No IM chat or Facebook status updates here.  (Maybe).

So, next time you’re feeling a little disheartened about how long this change process in your team is taking, go outside, take a deep breath and water your lawn.

Aloha kaua!

Book Review of Linchpin By Seth Godin

Here’s a quick (sort of – it’s more than 5 minutes but less than 10) video review of Seth Godin’s new book Linchpin. Bottom line? I like it. I took away 2 “don’ts” and 3 “dos” that make a lot of sense to me.

Free Your Mind

Workout: Organize Your To-Do List

Spend 15-30 minutes on an initial brain dump, getting things out of your mind and onto a task list. Set a timer. Don’t feel you need to order or arrange or prioritize anything just dump the contents in your head onto a sheet of paper, a spreadsheet or digital note taker. Categories may help in the emptying process, however, so feel free to come up with tasks from Home, Work, Finances, Email, Phone Calls, Family/Friends, etc.

The next step, according to David Allen, author of Getting Things Done, is to sort your list into “Tasks” or “Projects”, those tasks that can be grouped together or are related/dependent on each other. Often the way the task first appears on our list is in a form that is not “actionable.” This may require some re-writes on our part. For example, my list may include “work on the yard” – which is a good thing according to my wife :). The problem is that “work on the yard” is a multi-task “Project” that I will need to break down into actionable tasks such as “buy gas for mower” and “rake the leaves” and “get the weed-eater back from my friend”.

As your working through your list you may find somethings are not really tasks that you can do or are related to things that don’t belong to you. Scratch those out.

Now the next step for this workout is – nothing. You don’t have to do any of the tasks, really. Toss the list if you like. Do what you want with it. Guilt free. You may find that in the act of creating the list you generated some enthusiasm for acting on items on the list. Do those or don’t. It’s up to you.

Some people find that a list like this brings a sense of order and peace. Just seeing what you have to do on paper, nicely arranged and displayed, provides a sense of freedom.

You may find that the list has done just the opposite and it has increased your anxiety and stress. Then your next task is to identify the task or tasks that are causing the stress. Can you do anything about it? If no, than your stress will do nothing for you. If yes, ask yourself what is the very next thing you could do towards completing the task. Then, because you have stress, do it and release it. Then move to the next thing you could do, do it and release that.

The place where we want to be is acting upon that which can be acted upon and accepting that which we must accept.

I Know I’m Alive When…

Warning: This post is NOT drama free and is only as deep and meaningful as you make it.

Just got back from the beach. And yes, it was another beautiful day in Hawaii. I went to surf with my family but sat along the shore for about 15 minutes. I wish I could say I was contemplating deep, spiritual, and philosophic thoughts but I can’t ’cause I wasn’t. What I was doing was sitting on the sand watching the waves roll in because I was – cold. There. I said it. Cold as in not warm, as in brrrrrr…I couldn’t motivate myself to get off the sand and into the water. So I sat there. And contemplated. And thought.

One of my sons, Micah, was already in the water, catching waves, braving the icy chill of the noon time Pacific ocean. He’s always been the first in, last out boy. The other was contemplating the uh, conditions, with me.

Two things pushed me past the cold. It wasn’t the waves because the conditions weren’t that great (in fact, if I really had gone to surf I would’ve turned around and gone home instead). The first thing was that I had come to surf with my two boys, to be in the water, hang out, spend some time together. They’re both getting older and pretty soon I’ll be going to the same beach but surfing alone. I want to receive this day as the gift it is. Being and wanting to be “being,” both physically and spiritually in that moment, pushed me past my warm, comfortable spot on the sand.

The second reason I got in the water was that I recalled, simply and profoundly, my mortality. Not only are my days of surfing with my teen-aged sons quickly passing, but my own days of physically being able to get out in the water and surf are measured. I turned to the “contemplative” son next to me and said, “I’m going out and I’m going to relish in the cold! I’m going to savor each moment of that initial, icy plunge because this is how I know I’m alive! I can feel. I want to feel. I’m going out in that water and I will feel because I’m alive.”

No joke. I’m not kidding or making this up. This is what was going through my brain and what we were talking about. A little dramatic? Maybe. (More like a little traumatic for my boy but he’s used to it…) He raised one eyebrow, grinned at me, rose to his feet and moved to stand at the shore beside me. When that first touch of cold blue hit my feet I slowed, but only for a moment. Then I grinned, raised my one eyebrow, turned my face out to the sea, and keeping with the spirit of the moment, embraced the drama by yelling “I’m alive!” as I plunged into the waves.

Touch More, Love More. Touch More, Win More.

There’s some profound and interesting things in this article relating to teams – sports teams, work teams and home teams.

This from February 2010 article:

Couples: “But it looks so far like the couples who touch more are reporting more satisfaction in the relationship,” he said.

Teams: In a paper due out this year in the journal Emotion, Mr. Kraus and his co-authors, Cassy Huang and Dr. Keltner, report that with a few exceptions, good teams tended to be touchier than bad ones. The most touch-bonded teams were the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers, currently two of the league’s top teams; at the bottom were the mediocre Sacramento Kings and Charlotte Bobcats.

This article was written in February of this year (2010). Check the newspapers for who’s playing in the NBA finals today.

Are you Living Up to You

“Hell begins on the day when God grants us a clear vision of all that we might have achieved, of all the gifts which we have wasted, of all that we might have done which we did not do.“- Gian-Carlo Menoi

This quote stops me. It forces me to look, to really search for who I am and what I’m supposed to be doing. When I can say “I’ve done my best,” I can say I’m done. Until then, I must continue to do as Paul the Apostle when he says:

Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one gets the prize? Run in such a way as to get the prize. Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air. 27No, I beat my body and make it my slave so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified for the prize.

I don’t want to waste a sunrise.