Why Can’t You See The Big Picture?

I was doing my normal juggling of “leader” and “mom” roles. I was feeling pretty good about the “mom” part as I drove to the stadium that night.

Sure I was on a conference call the whole way there, but I pulled into the parking lot well before halftime. The marching band had not yet entered the field– that’s a win.

There was plenty of time to set up to take the pictures I had promised my son for his senior year. I found the perfect spot, got some great facial expressions, and even some action shots.

I drove home proudly and uploaded them to Photoshop. I adjusted everything just right and excitedly showed them to my son.

“Mom, did you get the guitar?”
“Huh? “Ben, you play mellophone”
“Mom, the band moves into a fantastic formation it looks like a guitar right in time with the music did you get a picture of that?”

I had completely missed the big picture

It happens at work too

My phone rang, it was one of the leaders on my team.

“Karin, you know that project you asked me to look into?”
“He continued” well, all the milestones are on track. IT, HR, Operations everyone has met their deliverables but.”

The project looked good on paper, but we both knew something was wrong.

Results weren’t moving.

The big picture was messy.

“We have to stop thinking about this as a project, we need to step back and figure out what needs to be done.”

He was right.

Why We Miss The Big Picture

Sometimes we get too close, and put our heads down doing tasks.

There is danger in looking at a project as a project.

We miss the big picture because we…

Sometimes we need to stop. Look up. Take in the whole scene.
Stop looking at the project as a “project.”

Why Can't You See The Big Picture?

I was doing my normal juggling of “leader” and “mom” roles. I was feeling pretty good about the “mom” part as I drove to the stadium that night.

Sure I was on a conference call the whole way there, but I pulled into the parking lot well before halftime. The marching band had not yet entered the field– that’s a win.

There was plenty of time to set up to take the pictures I had promised my son for his senior year. I found the perfect spot, got some great facial expressions, and even some action shots.

I drove home proudly and uploaded them to Photoshop. I adjusted everything just right and excitedly showed them to my son.

“Mom, did you get the guitar?”
“Huh? “Ben, you play mellophone”
“Mom, the band moves into a fantastic formation it looks like a guitar right in time with the music did you get a picture of that?”

I had completely missed the big picture

It happens at work too

My phone rang, it was one of the leaders on my team.

“Karin, you know that project you asked me to look into?”
“He continued” well, all the milestones are on track. IT, HR, Operations everyone has met their deliverables but.”

The project looked good on paper, but we both knew something was wrong.

Results weren’t moving.

The big picture was messy.

“We have to stop thinking about this as a project, we need to step back and figure out what needs to be done.”

He was right.

Why We Miss The Big Picture

Sometimes we get too close, and put our heads down doing tasks.

There is danger in looking at a project as a project.

We miss the big picture because we…

Sometimes we need to stop. Look up. Take in the whole scene.
Stop looking at the project as a “project.”

3 Troubling Troubles of “Troublemakers”

The troublemaker. You know the type. He’s the noisy one. He ALWAYS has an opinion. He has no filter. Sometimes he raises his voice. When you see him coming you may find ways to look busy and avoid the conversation.

When no one is looking you may even mutter some choice words under your breath.

Most teams experience a “troublemaker” from time to time.

The Trouble with Troublemakers

I’ve found 3 troubling troubles with such troublemakers. What have you found?

Trouble #1: They Create Negative Energy

Unchecked troublemakers may create a negative drain on a positive team. They can dominate meetings. Others may try to stand up to them for a while, but give up when it just eggs them on.

Trouble #2: They Bring Out the Worst in Your Leadership

After a while these troublemakers may wear on you too. When you are under pressure, you may lose patience. You may stop listening. You may react in a negative way.

Trouble #3: They May Be Right

These “troublemakers” may be loud and frustrating, but they are often right. The real trouble is they are often worth listening to. Beneath all that noise and confusion, are often salient concerns worth checking out with the rest of the team.

Tips for Taming the Trouble

Here’s some techniques that I have found worthwhile. What would you add?

  • Validate their feelings, ensure they feel heard
  • Take it offline, don’t engage in debate in front of the team
  • Schedule private time to hear their ideas
  • Give them a specific, productive role on the team
  • Keep them challenged
  • Recognize their successes
  • Provide space to talk about other issues they may be experiencing
  • Talk with them about what would help them skip to work
  • ???

3 Troubling Troubles of "Troublemakers"

The troublemaker. You know the type. He’s the noisy one. He ALWAYS has an opinion. He has no filter. Sometimes he raises his voice. When you see him coming you may find ways to look busy and avoid the conversation.

When no one is looking you may even mutter some choice words under your breath.

Most teams experience a “troublemaker” from time to time.

The Trouble with Troublemakers

I’ve found 3 troubling troubles with such troublemakers. What have you found?

Trouble #1: They Create Negative Energy

Unchecked troublemakers may create a negative drain on a positive team. They can dominate meetings. Others may try to stand up to them for a while, but give up when it just eggs them on.

Trouble #2: They Bring Out the Worst in Your Leadership

After a while these troublemakers may wear on you too. When you are under pressure, you may lose patience. You may stop listening. You may react in a negative way.

Trouble #3: They May Be Right

These “troublemakers” may be loud and frustrating, but they are often right. The real trouble is they are often worth listening to. Beneath all that noise and confusion, are often salient concerns worth checking out with the rest of the team.

Tips for Taming the Trouble

Here’s some techniques that I have found worthwhile. What would you add?

  • Validate their feelings, ensure they feel heard
  • Take it offline, don’t engage in debate in front of the team
  • Schedule private time to hear their ideas
  • Give them a specific, productive role on the team
  • Keep them challenged
  • Recognize their successes
  • Provide space to talk about other issues they may be experiencing
  • Talk with them about what would help them skip to work
  • ???

Recycling vs. Reinventing the Wheel

Recycling is an important part of corporate responsibility. Recycle paper. Recycle soda cans. What about recycling ideas?

I am sure you’ve heard such phrases in your organization. Perhaps you are fond of saying such words yourself.

Don’t reinvent the wheel.”

“How did we do it last year?”

“Can you create a template for us all to use?”

“How are they doing it in New York?”

“Let’s pull out last month’s agenda as a starting point”

“She did such a great job a last years event, do you think she would be willing to speak again?”

“How did we structure the contract last time?

 

Benefits of Recycling

Recycling ideas and processes…

  • Saves time
  • Is easy
  • Creates consistency
  • Provides structure
  • Leverages best practices
  • Prevents exceptions
  • ?

Downsides of Recycling

Recycling also…

  • Squashes creativity
  • Drives conformity
  • Assumes one size fits all
  • Is boring
  • Reduces the need to ask questions
  • May not be enough
  • Prevents exceptions
  • ?

4 Questions To Help You Decide When to Recycle vs. Reinvent

Consider what is needed most now (stability, continuity, efficiency or creativity, breakthrough thinking, empowerment)?

  1. What are the benefits/drawbacks of the current approach?
  2. Are there certain rules that must be followed (compliance, legal) ( a template may hit the spot)
  3. How important is the buy-in from the team (involving them in the reinvention may help)
  4. Is someone already doing this really well (may be time to adopt a best practice)?

“But Your Life Looks So Perfect on Facebook”

I just got off the phone with an old friend. She had several important concerns weighing on her heart. We talked about them for a while, and then she shared:

“You know I was talking to another friend about this and she said, “but your life looks so perfect on Facebook.”

I took a quick look at her Facebook page. Of course it did. It’s Facebook. Who wants to put their troubles out there for the world to see? All those great pics are absolutely true. Much in her life is fantastic. And, like every single one of us, other parts are messy.

So What’s This Got To Do With Leadership?

As leaders we work hard to present a “together” image. How this shows up varies on the organization, context and culture.

Maybe it’s…

  • the right shoes
  • perfectly organized meetings
  • perfectly put together wardrobes
  • perfectly polished speeches
  • stories of how your bold career moves worked out just right
  • an office full of awards
  • happy pictures of your happy family
  • ?

I’ll pause here to let you fill in the blank for your world. What is your organization’s equivalent to “looking good on Facebook.”

The truth is, you are also messy. I am also messy. Every member of your team is messy. Life is messy.

We want to believe our leaders have it all together.

We are inspired to think that “perfect” is achievable.

“Perfect” can also be intimidating.

Beyond the “Facebook” Fantasy

What if you…

  • Shared a bit more of your real journey?
  • Anticipated the angst your team members must have in their lives?
  • Made it okay to show up real.
  • Make it safe for your team to talk about the angst?
  • Don’t hold “it” against them.
  • ?

"But Your Life Looks So Perfect on Facebook"

I just got off the phone with an old friend. She had several important concerns weighing on her heart. We talked about them for a while, and then she shared:

“You know I was talking to another friend about this and she said, “but your life looks so perfect on Facebook.”

I took a quick look at her Facebook page. Of course it did. It’s Facebook. Who wants to put their troubles out there for the world to see? All those great pics are absolutely true. Much in her life is fantastic. And, like every single one of us, other parts are messy.

So What’s This Got To Do With Leadership?

As leaders we work hard to present a “together” image. How this shows up varies on the organization, context and culture.

Maybe it’s…

  • the right shoes
  • perfectly organized meetings
  • perfectly put together wardrobes
  • perfectly polished speeches
  • stories of how your bold career moves worked out just right
  • an office full of awards
  • happy pictures of your happy family
  • ?

I’ll pause here to let you fill in the blank for your world. What is your organization’s equivalent to “looking good on Facebook.”

The truth is, you are also messy. I am also messy. Every member of your team is messy. Life is messy.

We want to believe our leaders have it all together.

We are inspired to think that “perfect” is achievable.

“Perfect” can also be intimidating.

Beyond the “Facebook” Fantasy

What if you…

  • Shared a bit more of your real journey?
  • Anticipated the angst your team members must have in their lives?
  • Made it okay to show up real.
  • Make it safe for your team to talk about the angst?
  • Don’t hold “it” against them.
  • ?

7 Ways To Prevent False Urgency

False urgency can be lethal in organizations, and it become more toxic the higher it starts. Gravity exaggerates false urgency.

How You Are Unknowingly Creating False Urgency

Even if you are an empowering, enlightened leader, if you are the “boss” and you say “jump” (through your words or unintentional reactions), your team will likely start jumping.

Since it’s difficult to jump and do much else at the same time. The important work you really want your team to do gets put to the side.

And if YOUR boss reacts with false urgency and you start jumping they will likely jump higher or deeper.

More balls are dropped in all that jumping.

In fact your team may begin anticipating your reactions, and doing all kinds of jumping and gymnastics without being asked.

In many organizations, the whole urgent vs. important matrix is trumped when someone in authority has a need. Suddenly issues that would normally fall into the “urgent but not important” category become the most important.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

How To Prevent False Urgency

You can prevent false urgency by following 7 important guidelines.

  1. Build an environment that encourages constructive dissent. Give your team the authority to slow you down (see Give the Guy a Brake)
  2. Pause before reacting. Breathe. Work to manage your emotions and facial expressions
  3. Buffer your team from unrealistic urgency from above, learn to set realistic expectations around what is important (see Chaos Curtailed: How to Shield Your Team)
  4. Isolate the incident from the trend. Avoid the temptation to extrapolate one bad occurrence to an organization-wide problem
  5. Ask for the data you need, but not more than you need
  6. Ensure you understand what is being replaced by your urgent request is what you need really the most important thing
  7. Avoid the temptation to feed your ego. Ensure your team is working on what is important, not doing everything you say because YOU are important.
  8. ???

The headwinds are against you on this. Your team will want to please you. What may feel like satisfying action in the short-term may actually be undermining your long-term results.

The Input Paradox

When you take your leadership seriously, you are on a constant search for input.

“How am I doing?”
“What do you think”
“How did that go?”
“Am I on your short list?”

Before I go any further, let me stop and warn you.

This is one of those “do what I say not as a I do” posts.

I don’t have this handled.

Maybe you wrestle with this too.

Perhaps we can work on it together.

The Trouble With Input

Leading well is edgy.

You will tick people off.

And if you are leading well, you will be on a constant search for how you can lead better.

At any given point you will have just annoyed someone. In fact, at any given time, you may have done something that really made them mad.

And thus the Input Paradox

In an ideal world, when we make our courageous choices, there will be a locker room of support, patting us on the back, yelling.

“HOORAY FOR YOU.”

The truth is, your most courageous moves will likely be made quietly if you are lucky.

More probable, those moves will be made against opposition and naysayers. Your best decisions may be made with very few saying “amen”. In fact, they may be made against such an onslaught of differing views that you begin to question your own motives, values and credibility.

Here’s where it get’s tough.

Should you listen absolutely? perhaps? no way?

In my life, all of those have been the right answers to input received from credible sources.

Good Advice, Kept Warm

Some of the best input I ever received from a senior leader was this:

“I question your stance on X.But Karin, stop thinking about what we all think. That’s just going to make you bat shi_. Keep your head down, do the right thing. Lead courageously, and get results. That’s all that matters. If that’s not enough, that’s too bad.”

I have been carrying that in my heart. It goes a long way.

At the end of the day, you must lead from you.

If you lead to please, and it hurts your heart, something is wrong.

In fact, in might just make you “bat shi_.”

it’s worth a close listen to your heart.

Move and lead from there.

The Problem With Opportunities

When I first read Karen Martin’s book, The Outstanding Organization, her definition of a problem versus opportunity stuck with me.

“In recent years, it has become popular to avoid the word problem in organizations, recasting it instead as an opportunity for improvement. While proponents of using more positive terms are surely well meaning, I think they’ve got it entirely wrong.”

If you are regular reader, you now know why I needed to meet her.

I asked Karen about the real risk of calling problems “opportunities.”

She explained that when a problem is labelled as an “opportunity”, the “urgency is lost.” It feels safer, like something good we are moving toward not something bad we need to overcome as soon as possible.

Leaders in great organizations do both. They create a safe environment for surfacing today’s problems, as well identify opportunities that are likely to surface as they move toward their desired future.

I’ll pause here.

  • Are you encouraging your team to surface problems?
  • How do you react?
  • Do you sugar coat the problems you surface?

“So why are people reluctant to surface the real problems in organizations?”

Karen’s theory? A lot of our fears are grounded in our first experiences with surfacing problems with teachers, parents, or even early bosses. And as life would have it, many of those first experiences were with people who are not “emotionally mature,” and reacted negatively. It’s much easier keep your head down, stay the course, and not elicit a potentially negative response.

“So what about TQM and Lean and Six Sigma programs. That should help address problems, right?”

“Efforts at improvement such as Total Quality Management (TQM), Six Sigma, or Lean may look like they produce positive rsults initially as you straighten some of your pillars of execution, but with a cracked foundation, the pillars start to topple again.”

Her suggestion, don’t treat improvement as an isolated program. The primary preparation of blackbelts should be about becoming “competent coaches” to spread the culture and methodology throughout the organization. For most blackbelts it’s about them “doing,” we need to shift that mindset to helping them become great teachers and coaches.

“What makes you skip to work? 

Of course I had to ask my usual question. She shared,

“I’ve seen first hand that work doesn’t have to be so hard. People can and should feel good about their contributions. There’s no reason for work to deplete people. Helping organizations (and their people) get closer and closer to the goal of being excited to come to work every day makes me skip to work.”

Excellent. Skipping is contagious.

Author, speaker, and consultant, Karen Martin, provides practical strategies and tools for building an Outstanding Organization. The Outstanding Organization: Generate Business Results by Eliminating Chaos and Building the Foundation for Everyday Excellence is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon

 

5 Ways to Surface Team Conflict and Live to Tell About It

We all know deep in our hearts that teams need conflict.

Conflict is “healthy.”

Leaders and teams have been talking about Tuckman’s forming, storming, norming, performing model since the mid 1960s.

Teams were storming long before that.

We get it intellectually.

We’ve even seen the value of addressing conflict play out practically.

But conflict is uncomfortable.

Sometimes addressing conflict does more harm than good.

Stirring the Pot

I am a pot stirrer.

If you have ever worked on a team of mine, you know I am constantly encouraging you to “air and discuss your concerns” with one another.

I will listen (for a minute) and then immediately send you back to the person with whom you need to engage.

People love that or hate that– that too, can create conflict.

When the pot gets stirred, and the going gets tough, that’s when the calls usually come in from all parties. My stance remains the same.

“I don’t need to hear the play-by play. Everyone gets an extra smile from my heart for working it through. I’m glad you are talking. Have as many secret meetings” as you need. I won’t take sides.”

The biggest worry seems to be, “what if I get exposed?” The truth is, there are at least two sides to every story. I know that. If your boss has any sense, she knows that. If YOU are the boss, same rules apply.

Once the storming is over, I love to ask “what did you learn about how to do conflict better?”

The truth is I ask myself this same question every day.

Sometimes I screw it up.

Conflict is never handled.

Conflict Survival Tips

Here’s what folks have told me they have learned (from addressing conflict in real situations). I hope this helps.

  1. Don’t wait too long.
    Your issues become less relevant and feel more stupid to the recipient as time passes.
  2. Own it.
    No one wants to hear “everyone is saying” comments
  3. Carefully consider the input of others
    Don’t let your response feel like retaliation
  4. Watch your facial expressions when giving and receiving feedback
    Everyone is watching those more than your words
  5. Be prepared to give specific examples
    Even if you are absolutely right, it’s difficult to digest and even more difficult to take action without the details.
  6. ??? My list goes on but, I’ll stop here and let you play. what would you add?

Children’s Advice For President Obama

What advice do you have for President Obama?

We’ve been asking kids for their advice for Obama since the election results came in.

We asked them to consider…

  • What would you say to the President to help him with his next term?
  • If you were President what would you change?
  • In one word, what is the most important leadership quality for the President?

13 year old producer, Jared Herr, (pictured bottom right with Steven Spielberg) assembled their advice for President Obama into a short video.

 Please click on the following path.  Lets Grow Leaders Film.

I know I have readers of all political persuasions and social views. Some of these views are controversial. Thank goodness– diversity of thought helps us all grow as leaders. Some of you may have voted for President Obama. Others likely did not. Others of you are not in the United States. You will want to watch anyway, these kids are cute.

Many of the views represented here will be aligned with your core values. Others may not.

Either way, I encourage your to watch the video with your children, and record their comments in the comments section (feel free to include your advice as well).

Talking with our children about leadership and values is one of the best ways to help them grow as leaders.

Please also pass this post along to your social media friends, so we can collect as much advice as possible. All views welcome.

***
Jared Herr is 13 years old and in 7th grade. When he’s not producing films, he likes to play basketball, swim, and act. He uses his leadership to raise funds for Alex’s Lemonade stand, a charity that helps to find a cure for pediatric cancer. He and his friend have raised over $25,000 dollars for cancer research.