Friday, 17 April 2015

The Best Presentation is the One the Audience Gives

Courtesy of Linda Kennyhertz
I gave a great presentation at the 2015 Global Association of Change Management Professionals (ACMP) conference in Las Vegas this week. Actually, the participants gave it to themselves.

It was called Leadership, Process and Culture: How to Build Change Agility into Your Organization. My premise was that we must build flexibility into our organizations so that people can quickly and easily respond to change because today's pace of change is faster than change practices can support.

For large audiences like this one (200), I would typically speak on topics that would build to an overall recommendation. Each one would include a question that participants would be asked to share their answers to the group. 

The ratio of me to participants talking was 80:20.

This time, I flipped the ratio: I talked for 20 percent of the time and participants talked either in their groups or presented to the entire group for 80.

Here are the questions they discussed:
  • Describe a change agile environment in which you have worked?
  • What is the biggest risk to change agility? Why?
  • How do you ensure that the right conversations are being had?
  • Share one highly effective practice related to embedding new ways of working into normal operations
The atmosphere was engaging. It was also noisy. People were learning from each other and the examples they shared demonstrated the topics perfectly. 

I have learned that the best presentation is the one the audience give because it is the most relevant, interesting and educational. It's also the most memorable which helps learning.

I didn't give a great presentation this week. I facilitated one.

Phil

Friday, 10 April 2015

When was the last time you took a minute to celebrate?


I have been working long hours lately, often past 1:00 am, including weekends. Balancing consulting assignments and staying ahead of my commitments has been more than a full time job. 


Two nights ago, I finished writing a training program that was a 'must do' task before I could sleep. It was 12:30 am and I only had one more thing to do before I could go to bed.

As I scanned the document, I realized that not only had I finished a learning module, I had completed the suite of support materials I had been working on for six months. People would soon be using these tools to help them navigate their change. My work was done.

I quickly closed the file and called up my next one. Then I paused. I felt I had missed something: I had skipped paying tribute to my accomplishment. I didn't feel like celebrating (I felt like sleeping), but I knew that not taking a moment to acknowledge my work would set a bad precedent. 

I wanted to avoid the trap you can fall into when in constant production mode: getting work done becomes more important than the benefit from doing it. I needed to stop and acknowledge this milestone. I needed to celebrate it.

I closed my new file and opened the one I had just finished. I scanned through the over 100 pages of guidance and tools, imagining how people would benefit from them. I noted the design changes I had made to overcome challenges and the input I had received to make it better. I was celebrating the experience as much as the outcome.

Here are some of the benefits of taking time to celebrate your accomplishments:

- Marks the end of a piece of workyou did it!
- Gives meaning to the work you dothis is why you chose your profession
- Acknowledges lessons learned―both what to do and not do
Honours a commitment ―as promised
- Demonstrates what you are capable of doingto a client, manager or your team
- Marks the beginning of a new chapterwhat's next?

It only takes a minute to celebrate and the benefit lasts much longer. Next time I will plan for my celebration.

Phil

Friday, 3 April 2015

How to Manage Yourself When You Are Unprepared

Last Sunday, Barb and I ran the oldest road race in North America, the 30K Around the Bay

This is a popular warm up race for those who are running a Spring marathon. It's not popular for those who are not in shape.
The Grim Reaper at 27 k who I avoided
I was not close to being prepared for this 18.6 mile endurance test. For the past 6 weeks I have had to prioritize work over running. 

As Oprah Winfrey says, "Running is the greatest metaphor for life because you get out of it what you put into it." Since I hadn't prepared, I knew that I would not achieve a personal best performance. 

My running predicament is similar to work challenges that we are not prepared for. In these situations, you usually don't perform at your best. You can,however, focus on being the best you can be under these circumstances.  

Here is a checklist of things you can do to manage yourself when you are unprepared:

- Be realistic--False expectations often leads to big errors: starting the race too fast would have weakened me further and increased the probability of being injured
- Confirm what you know--what facts and experiences can you leverage? I had run this race twice before so I knew where the hills were
- Ask for help--Barb shared that a final killer hill had been removed from the course so I adjusted my speed accordingly
- Call on your strengths--Draw upon your skills and what you do well: I made sure that I perfectly angled my turns that eliminated extra distance I would needlessly run
- Adjust your approach if it isn't working: I usually speed up in the last mile, but this time my legs cramped and I dropped my speed until I could regain my gait
- Remind yourself that the situation is temporary--you are managing a moment in time: Counting down the remaining kilometres gave me confidence that I would manage through my challenges and reach the finish line
- Document your learnings--documentation is a way of committing knowledge to memory: I captured my reflections and lessons learned about the race in my running log as soon as I could hobbled to my office.

My results were not my best, but they were the best I could have achieved under these circumstances. I ran 30k in 3 hours, 7 minutes and 55 seconds. This time is 8 minutes slower than last year's race when I was training for a marathon, yet 4 minutes faster than the year before when I wasn't. 

Sometimes being unprepared is unavoidable in both our personal and work lives. Being the best you can be under the circumstances can be good enough.

Phil

Friday, 27 March 2015

Are you making choices as if your best work is ahead of you?

On Wednesday, I logged into a live-streamed press conference being held at the Norwegian Embassy in Berlin. The members of A-ha were making an important announcement.

A-ha is best known for its 1985 hit single and award-winning video, "Take on Me." At the time, it filled the summer airwaves around the world and has been rerecorded or sampled by at least 12 artists, most recently Pit Bull and Christina Aguilera in their song Feel this Moment.

Take on Me Video
A-ha is much more than a band to me. This group has exemplified the "best work is ahead of me" mind-set over their 30 year career. They experimented with different styles on each of their nine albums, supported important causes, recorded a James Bond theme song, The Living Daylights, played for the largest audience on record (198,000 in Brazil), and disbanded twice to work on solo pursuits―they confidently followed their united and separate paths.

A-ha's music has been part of my life's soundtrack as I followed my path. Their third album, Stay on These Roads, traveled with me when I left my first post-university job to fulfill a personal goal of backpacking through Europe. Also, their eighth, Minor Earth, Major Sky, was my travel companion during my first global change management role when I traveled weekly. The "best work is ahead of me" belief was with me both time.
At the press conference, A-ha announced they were reforming for two-years, releasing a new album, Cast in Steel, and embarking on a major tour.

Morten Harket said, "I knew that this would be a real genuine effort. We have never been ones to look back...all three of us are doing this because we know we can create something new." It caused me to think if I was making choices as if my best work is in front of me. If not, I would need to make some changes.

How about you? Are you making choices as if your best work is ahead of you? I hope so.

Phil

Friday, 20 March 2015

You're Only as Good as Your Opportunities

I read an intriguing quote from the actor Ethan Hawke: "One of the most frustrating things about acting is that you're only ever as good as your opportunities." This struck me as a profound insight: people are only as good as the environment in which they are in.

I have seen this phenomenon play out during organizational change. People perform at their worst in a poor work environment, regardless of their skill level. On the positive side, people perform at their best in an engaging and supportive environment, regardless of the level of change. 

An important part of Change Management is creating an environment where people can successfully adopt new ways of thinking and behaving. It's difficult to build because everyone (including senior leaders) are wrestling with their own transition. If done well, however, they choose hope over despair and in so doing remove their own barriers to adoption.

My second reflection was that Ethan was frustrated by his reality, whereas I found it elating. If you are only as good as your opportunities, you need to find the best opportunities so you can thrive. Networking through public speaking, seminars, association meetings, newsletters and this blog has provided me with many opportunities. Most of them have taken me in directions I wouldn't have thought of or found on my own.

If uncovering opportunities is the goal, how do you find them? Here are some tips on uncovering opportunities that will enable you to be your best:
  • Believe that your best work is ahead of you -- some people stop looking because they are in maintain mode
  • Make connecting with others a priority -- as Ernest Hemingway said, "You make your own luck"
  • Help others find new opportunities -- your generosity will be appreciated and reciprocated
  • Define what a good opportunity means to you -- they are easier to spot when you know what they look like
  • Give yourself flex time in your schedule so you can seize them -- I am working on this one
  • Evaluate the details before agreeing to an opportunity -- it might be a burden in disguise
  • Thank those who connect you to opportunities -- gratitude is linked to satisfaction and it will remind you to return the favour 
  • Tell people you are looking for new opportunities -- many will become your ambassadors
This week, I had a great call with someone I had been introduced to by email. It turns out we had the same manager at different companies when we worked in Europe. What are the odds? I want to connect him with an opportunity. The odds are very good.

Phil

Saturday, 14 March 2015

How to Write for People You Don't Know

In business, we are often asked to write to people we don't know. It could be an email to someone you need information from or a reply request that includes a group of unknown recipients. You must communicate with strangers. 

Many business people spend most of their time crafting their message instead of thinking about the people who need to understand it. They write in a style that works for them, assuming that it will work for others--instruction manuals, help desk scripts and earnings statements are good examples of this approach.

This weekend, I will be writing a guest blog post for an audience I don't know. They are student members of a financial association. Since I am not a student and don't belong to this association, I am taking extras steps to ensure my message is not lost in translation.

Here is the process I am following to align my message with my readers interests:
  • Meet with the association's communication coordinator to better understand reader preferences
  • Review a topic list of articles published this year to identify themes and titling
  • Read the latest two issues to study style, tone, structure and length of articles
  • Visit other student sites, such as Talent Egg, to better understand student needs
  • Create a draft and review it with the coordinator
  • Gain feedback from readers to learn for the next time
I remember speaking with a leader who was frustrated by his employees' poor knowledge of the company's strategy. He had spent a lot of time writing about every aspect of his plan. Why didn't people get it?

It turns out that his writing style was jargon filled and complex. His desire to share every detail left people confused, bored and annoyed. Before long, people stopped reading.

Getting to know the people you don't know is the only way to effectively write to them.

Phil

Friday, 6 March 2015

10 Tips on Managing Yourself through a Crunch Time

Most people experience spikes in activity that appear to be greater than the hours available to complete them. There's much to do and so little time to do it in. Does this sound familiar?

My challenge in crunch times is not changing my behaviour to accommodate the extra work. I try to cram everything into my existing schedule, which causes frustration and stress. I even take on new activities, which increases the pressure.

What I have realized is that you need to adjust your thinking and actions as soon as you realize that a heavy workload is coming. Here is how I plan on managing one I am about to take on:
  • Block off time on your calendar to complete key tasks―they can't be compromised and need to be protected from less important activities
  • Maintain your fitness―sustained energy is necessary to effectively complete a period of high performance
  • Negotiate new timelines if your work exceeds the available time to complete it―attempting the impossible leads to poor quality
  • Track your time―measurement leads to improved effectiveness
  • Say no to new tasks―this is easier and more effective than trying to adjust your existing commitments to accommodate new ones
  • Let everyone know you are entering a crunch time―intense focus can be misinterpreted. Also, this discourages people asking you take on new tasks
  • Mandate a six hour sleep rule―any less and you quickly reach diminishing returns 
  • Set an end date for when the crunch period is over―if not, the crunch pace can become your new norm
  • Capture lessons learned―throughout the period, ask yourself what is going well and what could be improved upon?
  • Reward yourself and those close to you―celebrating acknowledges sacrifices made and helps frame the experience as worthwhile
Spikes in activity are common in most roles and professions. It's a side effect of today's constantly changing work environments. How you manage them determines whether you crunch the work or the work crunches you.

Phil

Friday, 27 February 2015

10 Tips on How to Co-present a Presentation

This week, I co-presented a webinar with Jocelyn Bérard called Change Agility: Mastering Constant Change

We gave a similar keynote presentation at the Canadian Society for Training and Development (CSTD) Conference in November. Although the content was similar, the format was very different. The biggest change was that we couldn't see any of the over 500 participants. 
In many ways, webinars are easier to lead than in-person presentations: you can use your notes, you are sitting down and you don't have to think about your gestures.

There are also some challenges with this format: vocal mistakes are more noticeable, any background noise is a distraction and the only way to convey emotions is through your voice. 

Technical risks are just as big. Fortunately, we had Sarah managing IT and production. She flawlessly managed the communication software, emceeing, polling questions and choreography.

What I loved most was the partnership the three of us shared. Like any productions, it takes a well-coordinated team to make them work well.


Here are some tips on how to partner on a presentation:
  • Write a script―it improves flow and leaves little to chance
  • Listen and be open to your partners' recommendations―it leads to better quality and personal growth
  • Show up well-rehearsed―this is a given for trust-building and ability to perform
  • Arrive very early―remove a risk that would let down your audience and partners
  • Practice as a team―co-presentations are like dances: you must be in step with your partner for them to look good
  • Focus your practice time on transitions―hand-offs have the highest risk of going wrong
  • Know the technology―Sarah was the expert, but she needed to educate us on its fine points for the recording to work well
  • Discuss what could go wrong―contingency plans lead to fast corrections
  • Have an sense of humour―it builds and communicates rapport
  • Eat together―I remember Neil Peart, of the band Rush, talking about the importance of sharing meals with his band mates (Jocelyn shared his lunch with me twice!)
The presentation went well and as planned. We had a great time interacting with participants and ourselves. When we finished our closing comments and the recording ended, my first thought was 'when would we get the opportunity to partner again?' A partnership doesn't get any better than this.

Phil

Friday, 20 February 2015

How to Make the Most of Business Travel

My flight from Zurich to Munich was on time, which was a good start to journey home to Toronto. It has been a year since I have traveled outside of North America and a few since I did so almost weekly.

The rituals of business travel came back to me faster than I thought, from packing efficiently to researching local transit and store schedules. I even remembered to take melatonin pills on the overnight flight to regulate my sleep cycle and minimize jet lag. I was back in the business traveler zone.

What I had forgotten were the many benefits of international travel, which help counterbalance the losses of leaving your family. They are often unexpected, exciting and inspiring. Here are the ones that I noticed this week:

  • Experience a new culture -- day-to-day differences in culture are fascinating. I feel like pinching myself every time I am abroad
  • Increase your knowledge -- reading local magazines and newspapers provide glimpses of what is important
  • Broaden your perspectives -- talking with people about their lives expands your frame of reference and makes you more tolerant of different realities
  • See old friends -- this trip I saw great people who I had worked with many years ago The highlight was being invited out to dinner by an old friend and his wife (a new friend)
  • Practice your manners -- a test of character, especially when things go wrong and you don't speak the local language
  • Take time for reflection -- the best time to reflect is when you are in a new environment, without distraction of your regular commitments and schedule 

My second flight of the day, from Munich to Toronto, is also posted as being on time. It looks like I will return home without incident, tired and motivated. I don't want to forget my new experiences so I can make the most of my business travel. 

Phil



Friday, 13 February 2015

How to Help Someone Who is Lost

Yesterday, we headed off on a family skiing vacation at Mont Tremblant, 130 kilometres north of Montreal.

The drive went well, especially using GPS. Other than a few twists and turns through Montreal, travel was smooth and on time.

We eagerly watched satellite navigator click down the kilometres to our checkered flag destination marker. "You have arrived at your destination, the route guidance is now finished," it confidently exclaimed. The problem was that we were still on an unlit, two lane highway with only trees on both sides to welcome us.

We kept driving until we reached the Mont Tremblant Village. There were no passersby to ask at 11:00 pm in -25 degrees Celsius weather so we kept going.

After confirming we were lost by driving in all directions, we headed to the only resort we could see. We asked the the person at the front desk if this was where we check in to the place we were staying, he said, "no." We then asked how we could get to where we were going. He gave us a map of the area, drew a line to our destination and then pointed out our mistake, which sounded like the old Bugs Bunny line, "You should have taken a left at Albuquerque." 

We headed off again but realized that where we were to check-in was not where we were staying. We called the registration office and the woman said that our mistake was using GPS: "You shouldn't have used GPS. It doesn't work here." When we mentioned a restaurant that was in sight, she confirmed we were lost. "No, that's not where you should be." 

Our guide directed us to go past the golf course heading toward to mountain. Since it was completely dark and being our first visit to the area, we didn't know where either of them were. It now seems amusing exchanging comments in the care like, "Do you see the mountain...I don't see the mountain...could it be over there...is that a golf course under the snow?" 

The good news is that we were only a minute away. The bad news is that we continued driving in the wrong directions for ten. The only remaining option was to backtrack the way we originally came past the invisible GPS checkered flag point. In minutes, we arrived at our destination an hour after estimated arrival time.

Travel stories are excellent metaphors for working through change. There are clear start and end points, landmarks define the path and usually there are people available to help them to get to where they are going.

Here are some tips to help travelers of any kind:

  • Be clear on where people need to go, including landmarks they will see along the way
  • Tell people multiple times where they are going―repetition and accuracy are connected
  • Check in with people to make sure they are on track
  • Put yourself in their shoes―no one tries to get lost and they can't always see the mountain to show them where they are
  • Inform people that they are not the first to get lost―confidence and success are connected
  • Assure people they will get to where they are going
  • Confirm that people get back on track when they are lost
These may seem like simple tips, but many change initiatives focus on the destination without checking in to make sure people are progressing toward it. The destination becomes the focus over how people are getting there. 

Mont Tremblant is beautiful, especially when you can see it. We have reached the checkered flag and it feels good.

Phil

Friday, 6 February 2015

Ten Tips on How to Measure Change Management Success

I have an opportunity to present "How do we Measure Success in Change Management?" to a group of change management consultants, my peers.

Selecting key performance indicators (KPIs) continues to be a hot topic for organizational initiatives, from learning & development to large scale transformations: how do you measure the benefits of this type of investment?

There are many ways to do this incorrectly, such as measuring things that:
  • aren't directly connected to the initiative, e.g. an office relocation measured by website traffic levels;
  • are influenced by multiple factors, e.g. leadership training measured by net profit gains;
  • can't be measured with data, e.g. goodwill;
  • leaders do not care about;
  • no one is responsible for measuring;
  • are not reviewed with leaders after they are measured; or
  • claim to calculate return on investment (ROI) without stating how.
ROI is the Holy Grail of performance measurement because it implies financial significance and accuracy. A good investment is one where the tangible benefits gained are greater than the costs incurred to secure them.

Measuring change in this way is challenging, if not impossible, because the numbers are typically based on subjective estimates. For example, I heard someone proclaim that sales training resulted in 25 percent of his company's annual sales increase. Based on what? Usually these estimates are guesses based on impressions, or wishful thinking, versus facts, which negates the significance and accuracy they are intended to establish.

Here are some suggestions on how to measure change management success:
  • Set expectations that change management (or any organizational initiative) is a contributor to hard results, not the only contributor.
  • Pick a few strong KPIs versus a long list of them―it focuses the evaluation exercise and reduces resource requirements.
  • Focus on the metrics that leaders value―others may help you but they will be viewed by the organization as irrelevant.
  • Gain agreement on what data will be tracked by whom at the beginning of an initiative―the data and the resources to collect it may not exist.
  • Include tracking responsibilities in people's goals―it will increase the likelihood they will be tracked well and people will be rewarded for doing so.
  • Be clear on how long KPIs will be measured―most benefits are realized months or a year past implementation.
  • Gain leaders' commitment to review results for the duration―what gets reviewed by leaders gets measured.
  • Gather anecdotal feedback from people who are working with the changes―verbatim comments help describe benefits and lessons learned.
  • Use tracked results to support business cases for future initiatives―this is often a missed opportunity.
  • Communicate results to the entire business―it increases engagement and invites people to celebrate wins and learn from mistakes.
I am looking forward to discussing the measurement of change management with my peers. It will be difficult to measure how much I will learn, but I know it will be a lot. 

Phil

Friday, 30 January 2015

Should you stay connected with everyone you have met?

LinkedIn has a feature that I haven't used, until this week. It is the "See Who You Already Know on LinkedIn" utility that offers to send invites to people whose email addresses are stored in your email account. 

A way to conveniently extend your LinkedIn community to people you know seems like a good idea. Why not send invites to people you have emailed in the past?

On Saturday, I decided to investigate this function. I was curious about how it worked and whether I could filter my email connections for those I wanted to connect with.

I hit "continue" in the pop-up menu and instantly had second thoughts--what about all the people who are copied on business emails? I decided to exit the window, no harm done.

Immediately, I noticed the red email indicator light up on my Blackberry. I looked at my email (a Pavlovian response) and saw two acceptances of my LinkedIn invites. Oh no. I was mortified. 

I had sent LinkedIn invites to everyone who has been copied on an email in my Gmail and Outlook accounts since the beginning of time--presidents of client organizations, professors, dentists, plumbers, you name it.

The acceptances kept coming in. How many invites were sent out, I wondered. How many were ignored? It felt like a popularity contest. 

The more the acceptances arrived, the more relaxed I became about my invitation bonanza. It's only an invitation to connect, I rationalized.

Most people I recognized and was glad that we were now connected. I was surprised that I wasn't already connected with others. Some I wouldn't have sent invites to because either I didn't have relationships with them or the invites might be viewed as requests inspired by personal gain. 

In total, I have received 60 acceptances in 6 days, a 4 percent increase in my total LinkedIn community.

Knowing what I know now, would I do it again? Absolutely. Like change management, my personal goal is to positively influence people to change how they think and act to be more successful. Influencing more people extends my influence, even if it has pushed me out of my comfort zone to achieve it. 

Helping someone decide whether to use a LinkedIn feature may seem like a small thing, but it might be more important to some readers, and that's what makes writing this blog meaningful to me. You never know what influence you can have.

So should you try out this LinkedIn feature? The meaningful connections you gain might be worth it. They were worth it for me.

Phil

Friday, 23 January 2015

The Importance of Year-over-year Results

Yesterday, I gave a talk at the HRPA Conference, Canada's largest annual human resources event.

After my session ended, I visited the conference bookstore to sign copies of Change with Confidence. As I was chatting with a bookstore employee, I realized I had done the same thing one year ago almost to the day. 

I am a fan of measuring year-over-year results, both professionally and personally. Finances, running statistics and adherence to guidelines get year end reviews.

What I hadn't reviewed this year was the progress of my book. I reread a blog post I had written after the last conference for clues about what I was measuring. This was little help since my focus was on how I got to the conference in a three-day snow storm in New Jersey.

I do remember that the number of sales was very important to me. As a first time author, it was a tangible measure of acceptance, or the importance of my book. I checked often.


Also important were the number of reviews, interviews and the number of articles I got published. More concrete measures of approval.

As the year progressed my focus changed. The biggest accolade was a reader who emailed me to say how much my book had helped him. "Just what he was looking for," was what he wrote. Also, a few professors had added it to their reading lists and a company believed in it enough to create an online course on the content, which meant a lot to me. 

My focus had changed from acceptance to influence. 

I hadn't realized that my change in focus has affected my promotional efforts. It had become part of my decision making criteria for speaking engagements and the businesses and institutions I approach. 

I feel good about my progress and the types of results I will make this year.

Phil

Friday, 16 January 2015

Is photographing ourselves more important than the photo?

I have been spending a lot of time lately digitizing old family photos, slides and 8 mm films. Boxes and boxes of them.

Many images haven't been looked at in decades, which feels like a missed opportunity.

Could it be that the desire to capture these moments is more important than the captured images?

I have come across many series of multiple photographs of the same moment. And this was before the days of no cost smart phone photos. Why spend so much time getting the photograph just right?

I think the process of picture taking signifies that the moment is special and worthy of capturing. Taking multiple photographs of the same scene reinforces the importance of the event. The importance of getting it right is a message in itself--this moment matters.

For many years, I would ask teams working on organizational changes if I could take their picture. I would do so for both project teams and workshop participants. The photo taking process was always a social activity that lightened the mood no matter how immersed in content they were. It was an up beat event.

 For these work teams, the photo shoot implied that they were creating important outcomes that were worthy of being acknowledged. They were building the future.

This acknowledgement also happens in our personal lives. For example, the setting up and taking of a 'selfie' signifies that our image at that moment is important and worthy of being captured. The actual selfie is a byproduct of the event―the  recording is more important (and valuable) than the record.

For the last few years, in workshops, my camera has been focused on capturing flip chart notes versus the teams that created them.

I now realize that I have stopped performing an important function for the team and its productivity. Teams are important and they need to be acknowledged. Their work around change builds the foundation for a better organization. 

Regardless whether anyone looks the picture, the process of taking it represents productivity, progress and promise. People and the good work they do are worth capturing because they matter.

Phil

Friday, 9 January 2015

10 Tips on How to Hold a Meeting in a Coffee Place


More and more I work with clients remotely, which is changing how I work. Email, phone, Skype and Google Hangouts are our modes of communication. I only meet my clients in-person when I am leading key meetings or workshops.

Since my face-to-face meetings are at my clients' offices or their chosen off-site locations, I have no need for commercial office space. This expense would only add a commute to my life, reducing the amount of time I could work on my assignments.

I do have a need to meet with other consultants and contacts to work on projects or to network. For these meetings, coffee places are excellent. Chains like Starbucks, Costa and Tim Horton's and independents offer a dynamic space with ample room and refreshments. They are inexpensive too. 

Here are some tips to make the most of your coffee place business meetings:

  • Pick a location that is easily accessible for all parties―commuting time is a cost for everyone
  • Visit the cafe before scheduling a meeting around the time you plan to meet―is there enough seating, is it too noisy, is it conducive to collaboration and conversation?
  • Check for wi-fi access―invariably someone will need to access something on the internet
  • Arrive early so you can find the best spot to sit―this week, I arrived second and five minutes late, which is bad form
  • Pick a spot away from the door―weather and constant traffic can be distractions
  • Offer to buy your meeting attendees coffee―it's good form
  • Tip those who take your order―it's a small recognition for the use of their space
  • Ask if you can check the time―it's difficult to do surreptitiously and I always go overtime if I don't
  • Offer to dispose of everyone's cups, etc.―it's a courtesy
  • Ask others if they liked the cafe as a meeting location―this could become a regular meeting spot or somewhere you won't return to

Coffee places are excellent business meeting spots. This week, I had a meeting in a converted book store that had the old world charm of its 88 year history. It was a perfect backdrop for our conversation.

Phil

Friday, 2 January 2015

3 Words to Guide My Actions and Behaviours in 2015

The holidays is a perfect time to plan for the new year. I spent mine thinking of the three words that will guide my actions and behaviours to achieve my goals and live the life I want to lead.

An assessment of my use of last year's words (Purposeful, Groundbreaking and Global) helped make my selection—when I used them well, when I didn't and when I forgot them altogether

This year, I have vowed to use them for all substantial decisions on how I spend my time.

I realize that every decision impacts whether or not I am progressing against my goals. Everything counts. For example, if I agree to do something that is unplanned, the benefit must be greater than doing something else. It's a choice. That's why my first word is 'Choiceful'. It will remind me of the implications of my decisions before I make them.

This year I want to grow by taking on new opportunities and challenges. This will require limiting the amount of activities that are repeats of things I have done in the past. New experiences and challenges are what I am motivated by this year.

My first two words will have limited impact if I don't leave room in my schedule to seize opportunities. Michael Hyatt calls this creating marginThat's why my third word is 'Flexible'. I must keep enough room in my schedule so I can choose take on new experiences.

I felt the pain of zero margin over the past 3 months when I over-extended myself well beyond capacity. My cost was working non-stop, day and night, missing out on other parts of my life. I did it to myself and don't want to do it again.

I am excited about my 3 word selections and how I will use them over the next 12 months. They are posted by my computer so I don't forget them. I also plan to conduct a couple of check-ins over 2015 so I get the best use of them.

So what do you think? If you chose 3 words to help guide you in 2015, what would they be?

Phil

Friday, 26 December 2014

Why It's Important to Take Stock of 2014

Media is filled with best and worst lists of 2014—best business books, worst movies, best "best of " lists, etc. Although they are momentarily appealing, they only share one person's subjective view of what good (or bad) looks like for the year. 

What is more valuable is a comparison of results to goals. This is the only meaningful way to measure success and learn from the process.

Measuring your yearly accomplishments allows you to assess whether you achieve your goals. It also allows you to reflect on what what worked and didn't work and which approaches you should start, stop or continue to achieve next year's goals.

I tried a new goal setting approach this year based on a blog post by Chris Brogan written on January 1st. He recommended choosing three words "that sum up what you want to work on changing/improving in the coming year". It's a simple and effective way to prioritize, make decisions and keep track of your progress.

I chose my three words over two weeks. It was important that each one connected to my purpose of helping people and organizations  be more successful by working in new ways. My three words are: purposeful, groundbreaking and global. I used them as guides as I choose how to invest my time.

Here's my assessment of my ability to achieve each one:

 Purposeful

I had a purposeful year. The assignments I took on had meaningful goals, both for the organizations and people working on themthere were no 'change for change's sake' initiatives. Also, I took on many speaking engagements that provided immediate, positive approaches for attendees, including people going through a downsizing initiative, managers trying to motivate not-for-profit volunteers and specialists seeking to have a voice during constant change.

Groundbreaking

This was not a groundbreaking year. I did do a few new things this year including working in new industries and partnering on a keynote presentation with another author. Both broke new ground and were successful, but didn't reach the 'earth shattering' expectations I had set. I have learned that being groundbreaking in itself is not the goal, although things may be groundbreaking to achieve other goals.

Global

I had a global year, both from business and mindset perspectives. Ninety percent of my assignments were with global organizations working on global projects. They all held fascinating challenges (and rewards) of working across multiple geographies and cultures. I have also developed many new international relationships. It's a global world and I feel good about my presence in it this year.

My analysis has taught me a lot about how choosing three words each year can guide my actions and behaviours. Taking stock at the end of the year is informing my next year's word selection too. More on them later.

Phil

Friday, 19 December 2014

How to Minimize the "Get it done before the holidays" Syndrome

Christmas is my favourite time of the year. I get the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family, reflect on the year and plan for the next one. 

That's my plan every December but it never seems to work that way. This is one of the busiest times of the year. Whether it's achieving yearly goals or completing projects before the holiday, schedules are full and people are overloaded.

This year has been no different; projects have been sped up and one was even pressed to start before year's end. Beyond the personal impact of working around the clock, there is a business cost to this rush: people aren't doing their best work. 

Efficiency becomes the goal at the expense of effectiveness. Getting things done is more important than doing things well. The closer you get to the office closing, the more short cuts are taken. At worst, commitments become check box exercises with the intention of reviewing them after the holidays. 

If the pre-holiday season is an environment where people don't do their best work, how do you avoid this "get it done before the holidays syndrome"? Here is a checklist to minimize the effect:


  • Assume that 25 percent of your time in December will be spent on last-minute requests
  • Avoid scheduling important meetings one weeks before the holidays
  • Don't schedule training sessions two weeks before the holidays—attention is low and attendance is a challenge
  • For meetings that you must hold just before the holidays, send action items out within 24 hours along with an invite to review them in early January—people will forget them
  • Ask when people are returning from holiday—it might not be the first day back
  • Be patient with your colleagues and yourself—most are caught up in the holiday rush. 
Following these practices may even give you the opportunity to reconnect with friends and family, reflect on the year and plan for the next one. Happy holidays!

Phil

Friday, 12 December 2014

10 Questions to Ask When Starting a New Change Project

I just started an exciting change management project. The goal is to enable a global roll-out of a new cross-functional process. 

The 'what' and the 'why' of the project are clear but the 'how' needs to be defined after internal capabilities--resourcing, skills and culture--are assessed and understood.

The 'discovery' phase of this assignment includes interviews with key stakeholders and a deep-dive review of documents. In addition to learning about the business strategy and how it is being delivered, we need to understand how people work together.

Triangulation, the technique of comparing different data sources to distinguish between facts and fiction, is helpful to create an accurate picture of the organization. This is needed before determining how to position the change and develop the best transition process.

Interviewing is the most effective and interesting part of the discovery process. Asking a set of questions to a diverse group of people will give us the puzzle pieces to assemble the organizational picture. Triangulating the answers will help identify the ones that don't fit.

Here are 10 questions that create a good picture of an organization:
  • What does success look like to you about this change?
  • What are people struggling with (pain points) without the change?
  • How will the organization and operators benefit from the change? 
  • What changes were successful in the past? Why?
  • What changes failed in the past? Why?
  • What should I know about your culture? How so?
  • Why might people resist adopting the process?
  • How would you roll-out the change?
  • How would you get people involved in making the change?
  • What last thoughts do you have about making the change?
Questions are powerful tools to gain understanding of how an organization and its people operate. Doing so in a structured way with the right questions will help you help them to change their picture for the better.

Phil