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Fear, Insecurity and the Scarcity Mindset

Fear, Insecurity and the Scarcity Mindset

I feel as if there is a significant volume of works adoring, in a sense, and vilifying the scarcity mentality in our culture. I was fist exposed to these concepts by Brené Brown, and I was challenged by her first TED talk. Personally, I was inspired and motivated for the longest time by the “greed is good” mantra. I felt the constant longing for more was a staircase that drove us to higher levels of personal and professional development. Life is not simple. I learned that it could just as easily be a death spiral that we were riding.  Having taken this train ride up and down over my career, I have learned one key element. The lack of satisfaction with what we have or achieved thus far in life is not the panacea of upward growth I once thought when it is anchored in the bias of scarcity. We are consumed with desires for more time, effort, energy, goodwill of others, and building our professional kingdoms (power) while burning ourselves and others out.  It will never be enough; there is always another mountain to climb.

Further thought provocation arrived when I was pressured to define scarcity and its possible causes. The conversation began to focus on root causes in our culture and my sub-culture. In Southern California, we, for the most part, do not suffer from any real form of scarcity.  So, the best causal idea was to attribute scarcity mindset to a misguided belief of insecurity.  Scarcity mindset and fear are interwoven, and I believe they are mutually reinforcing.  It might be a fear of loss, of limited attainment, sustainability, achievement itself, or not knowing what is coming next that develops the fear and sense of scarcity.  These fears are the life blood of insecurity and lead people to extreme levels of consumption.  It is the “more for you is less for me” taken to an aggressive stance. The void we try to fill by over consuming everything can never be filled because of a nagging scarcity fear.  It is a zombie-like craving that controls and takes away bits of our humanity and the enjoyment of everyday experiences.

At some point in your career, you arrive at a moment when you start questioning everything.  You wonder what will be the next challenge or goal that should be undertaken. I thought a lot about what I had received, and what I am giving back.  This was the first step for me.  I stopped and began to question my motives, desires, and long-term goals. I bounced ideas off people, sought out feedback, worked with a coach, and took more time to be with my family and friends.  I made no significant changes or jumping to a different track of life.  I made a few tweaks here and there and had a realization that my thinking had to change. Like everyone else, I am a work in progress, and each day I hope to make a positive contribution to my endeavors.  I am more content with what I have achieved, adjust goals and pacing, and finally appreciate how much I enjoy helping others to achieve their aims.

I intentionally did not edit or refine from my first draft…I just felt like writing tonight, and this was what was on my mind.

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Aligning Professional and Personal Roles to Core Values

Aligning Professional and Personal Roles to Core Values

Having a strong work-life role as part of our overall identity is healthy and normal for high-performing people.  However, it is easily taken too far.  People may become so emotionally connected to the business that it consumes their identity until “the company” represents a huge part of the individual.  On the other hand, having a weak work-life component of our identity leads to career stagnation, mediocrity, and disengagement.

When we permit our personal identities to be compromised by allowing the corporation to supplant our true selves, we are letting our family, team, and company down.  Our objectiveness and priority system is unbalanced, and that compromises our judgement.  This situation leads to burnout, frustration, and an ever escalating level of damaged relationships.

FYI: This post is not what I intended to write.  However, it is some honest thoughts, and I feel it might be worth sharing.  I hope you find some value in it.

This is avoidable by aligning our priorities and actions with our core values. This requires us to understand what matters the most to us as a person.  Frequently, it is our family. I have learned the importance of regularly looking at my obligations and roles through the lens of my core values. This approach allows for the separation of the corporation from the person. I am not advocating for the separate identities for work-life and home-life.  This would create an entirely different set of problems. I am a complete person that has multiple obligations and roles in life.  When integrated together through core values, I am a unified and authentic person. I would recommend that we look at where our efforts/resources are being directed while asking a couple of questions.

  • Do I understand the needs and expectations of my stakeholders? Even if I am sure, I will ask them again. This understanding must be comprehensive and include both internal and external such as family, friends, colleagues, business and community.
  • Are my actions and resource allocation (time, energy, mind share, and financial among other items) aligned with those needs and expectations?
  • Do I agree with the current alignment between my core values, conduct, the external expectations placed on me, my internal expectations for myself, and my allocation of resources? If not, what beliefs, actions, or assignments need to be modified to gain the required alignment?
  • If I feel my resource’s allocations, actions, and beliefs are aligned with my core values, do the desires of my stakeholder’s need to be modified? If so, what methods may I use to help them in recalibrating their expectations?
  • How often should I recheck my alignment with my stakeholders and core values?

The allocation of resources and assessment of our behavior moves as our life situations change. The aim is to keep the true priorities that are derived from our core values first in our personal and professional lives. When we have an agreement between our core values, behaviors, and stakeholders, we are free to experience higher levels of fulfillment, clearer judgement, and ultimately the success we seek.

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Increase a Message’s Personal Significance to Improve its Recall

Increase a Message’s Personal Significance to Improve its Recall

I am a firm believer that a person’s personal perception is their reality regardless of the underlying facts. Because of the perception issues, the primary speaker should alter their approach to accommodate the audience members and not expect the audience to adjust to the speaker’s preferred way of communicating. When we do this, too much is left open to chance and poor understanding. The speaker can say whatever they want, but is the communication being received in the way that is wanted or needed? We may even believe that we are clear and compelling with our statements, but all that information is being processed through the receiving person’s perceptions and beliefs.

Knowing how few details are retained by communication participants allows us to adapt the content in ways to increase the likelihood the messages correctly understood and retained in more detail.

I am not an expert in effective communication practices, but I think about these issues as part of my preparation. I start by asking myself a few basic questions and writing down the answers. I can look at these answers and tweak the approach to improve my results.

What are the key messages or information I want the group or person to understand and retain?

I keep this list as short as possible.  I prefer only one or two items as it helps with clarity, and too many concepts dilute the significance of the most important message.

How are these messages personally relevant to each participant?

Before I go into the meeting details, I want each person to understand why the content matters to them.  I explain how the information relates to their individual goals, desires or needs. This takes time and forces me to understand the situations of my fellow participants. If I cannot help them understand how the material is personally significant for them, then I should expect poor understanding, little recall, and nearly no follow-through. When the avenues of personal significance are divergent for the group members, I meet in advance with individual members to discuss how the content is of particular importance for them.  With this already done, I spend only a short amount of time in the meeting as a refresher on the relevance for each person.

How will I know that each person understands what I plan on saying?

Having a good meeting etiquette and an organizational process is a given for most leaders. This includes having a command of the information they plan on sharing, practicing the delivery, and possessing positive body language.  If these elements are missing, most likely, the messages being delivered will lead to misunderstandings among the participants. I use methods of active listening and interactive dialog throughout the discussion.  I want to hear my fellow participants paraphrase and expound on what I am saying in their words.  I ask questions about what the information means to them, does it impact them or their team, and what they feel should be the next steps.  After the meeting, minutes are sent out with the agreed-on action items and due dates.

A few days later, I visit the participants to make sure they have no additional questions. I ask them to give me the gist of the meeting, their key takeaways and review any action items. I would spend a few more minutes asking them what the information means to them and the business. Lastly, I ask for feedback on the meeting. I take the feedback to heart, thank them, and incorporate the feedback in future meetings.

Closing thoughts…

Like I said, this is not the end-all-be-all of improving information recall or retention techniques that leaders may employ. It is a leadership concept designed to promote information recall, message understanding, and follow through by tailoring the content to increase the personal significance that each participant assigns to it.

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Are We on the Same Team or Not?

Are We on the Same Team or Not?

Where do your team boundaries start and stop? Frequently, we see our team as the people that are contained within our hierarchal areas of responsibility. For most managers, this is “their team.” However, everyone is part of divisional structures and an overall organization. This is the wider team environment that we belong to but many people are not as invested in the broader scope of the team. This is an underlying condition that leads corporate cultures down the path of “us versus them.”

Senior leadership tends to think of the larger organization as the team. Upper management and middle-management often see teams through the lens of their respective lines of authority. This is the wrong view when looking at talent management. A few days ago, Harvard Business Review published an article confirming that excellent employees do leave good bosses. I responded about the importance of encouraging people to explore other departments rather than exit to a competing organization. Intellectually this is logical and sound business judgment. However, people are usually not that sensible.

I had a great discussion on this topic the other night with a friend and mentor of mine that is a senior leader in a public firm. He agrees that having employees go across the organization is highly preferred and a sign of good leadership. In practice, he felt that it is rarely executed so cleanly. Many managers see other divisions as competition rather than part of the larger joint team. In his opinion, many leaders see other internal groups in the same ways as they do an external organization when competing for talent. A loss of real talent is to be avoided. This view operates at the expense of the organization as a whole. The myopic position stifles innovation and drains an organization of highly qualified and exceptional talent.

Losing someone to another department is not the same as losing them from the team.

I stress my position, as leaders, we need to prepare and encourage our people to take on challenging assignments in new areas of the business. The firm becomes more innovative and resilient as we build greater cross-functional knowledge in the organization. It is only the incorrect definition of “the team” that leads us down the wrong path. We must encourage our team members to explore new opportunities throughout the organization before they decide to explore the possibilities of continued growth in our competitors.

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Developing professional personal KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

Developing professional personal KPIs (Key Performance Indicators)

KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) can be used for companies, departments, and individuals. At the person level, KPIs are valuable tools in both professional and personal aspects of life. In the past, I have discussed KPIs for departments, but I found that the discussion applies equally well to individuals. This goes beyond the traditional annual goal-setting process. However, it does start with a deep understanding of those goals, and the outcomes the goals are designed to create.

After annual goals are established, I translate those goals into quarterly milestones. They can take the form of a traditional milestone or actions that must be completed by particular deadlines. The same process is completed for each month. This helps ensure that monthly activities support quarterly milestones, which will deliver on annual goals.

KPIs should build on one another to tell a compelling story of performance.

Looking at the monthly deliverables, we can now begin to brainstorm on the main performance indicators. This translates into daily, weekly, and monthly actions that must be taken correctly to deliver on those goals. As with all key performance indicators, they must be measurable and designed to reinforce positive actions, monitor for deviations from established norms, or prevent an adverse outcome.

Salespeople often monitor call volumes on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. This is an excellent KPI. However, assessing how customers move through the sales continuum is an equally valid KPI. This helps prevent poor quality calls for making the KPIs look good while not delivering the primary business result.A cautionary note: KPIs should not be another to-do list. These are items that are done consistently over extended periods and deliver results. They are important, regular, and can be measured.

Every individual operates at a distinctive level and so there KPIs will look remarkably different based off of their level of service to the organization. Personally, my professional KPIs do not resemble anything like anyone else on my former teams. I have KPIs focused on the synthesis of information into something actionable. Another professional KPI is the number of business processes that I review or create that develop into meaningful improvements. Projects are full of KPIs, including completion rates, on target versus at-risk activities, and responsiveness to information requests. There is no limit to the form of KPIs can be developed.

A second cautionary note: KPIs should inform a person about their productivity level. The capturing of KPIs should not become a burdensome process that takes away from delivering on the bottom-line results. The collection of KPI stats should be a natural process and integrated into the core workflow.

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Reduce Off-Hours Communication to Improve Work-Life Balance

Reduce Off-Hours Communication to Improve Work-Life Balance

Technology has brought about many changes in our world.  All-new industries were given birth or faded into history because of the information technology revolution.  However, the information technology revolution was not a panacea and did not resolve all the world’s problems.  It allowed businesses to become more efficient, improve operations and increase their competitive advantages (Porter & Millar, 1985).  However, the rise of mobile communications, email, text messaging, and web platforms has increased the intrusion of business-related matters into personal and family time (McShane & Glinow, 2014, p. 8).  It is becoming more commonplace for workers never to log off from work as the evening hours have become a new de-facto night shift (Butts, Becker, & Boswell, 2015, p. 763).  Furthermore, this new always-on work environment has altered the relationship between management and employees.

Employees may feel obligated to respond to peers and management regardless of the hour.  Management knowingly or unknowingly may be sending messages that establish these expectations with employees.  Additionally, management may mistakenly believe that employees will leave off-hour communications in their inbox until the following workday.

Management teams should discourage off-hours communications.  When this is impossible because of time zone differences or travel requirement, the utilization of a delayed send function is encouraged. At a minimum, all off-hour messages should clearly indicate whether the message needs a response before the next workday.  Again, the preference is not to send messages off-hours or use a delay send function since many employees will still check messages off-hours.

By taking these small steps, employers can help their teams improve work-life balance and lower employee stress levels without sacrificing productivity.  They might even find that employees are more efficient when they experience lower levels of stress.

References

Butts, M. M., Becker, W. J., & Boswell, W. R. (2015, June). Hot buttons and time sinks: The effects of electronic communication during nonwork time on emotions and work-nonwork conflict. Academy of Management Journal, 58(3), 763-788. doi:10.5465/amj.2014.0170

McShane, S. L., & Glinow, M. V. (2014). Organizational behavior (Third ed.) [Kindle].

Porter, M. E., & Millar, V. E. (1985, July 01). How information gives you competitive advantage. Retrieved from https://hbr.org/1985/07/how-information-gives-you-competitive-advantag

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Appropriateness of KPIs and Bonuses for All Employees

Appropriateness of KPIs and Bonuses for All Employees

In a recent discussion, the topic of whether KPIs, bonuses and goals should be eligible for all employees within an organization.  I think KPIs and bonus are two different conversations, and as such, should be dealt with independently in an organizational discussion context.  The budget implications of making every employee bonus eligible are substantial and could result in base pay adjustments that would be negative to most employees.  I believe that bonuses are more appropriate at certain levels within the organization than others.

However, I firmly believe that KPIs and non-financially compensated goals are important to have in place for all employees.  Non-monetary rewards can be developed for non-bonus eligible employees driven from their performance to goals.  Non-monetarily compensated goals should not be as stringent or burdensome in their documentation requirements as monetarily rewarded goals.  The rewards can be as simple as highlighting the individual’s achievements across the organization, a wall of fame, to lunch with the principal members of the executive team.

Non-monetary rewards are nearly limitless and solely dependent upon the organization and its innate creativity. One of the most effective non-monetary rewards I have seen is certificates of appreciation given out to employees at all company meetings.  This massive public demonstration of appreciation and achievement can go a very long way.