Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Lexus Syndrome

I don't know if they still use it, but the tag line that Lexus had for a while was "the relentless pursuit of perfection." I loved it. Not because I thought it ever applied to me as such, but just because I thought it was so clever in terms of capturing and conveying their sense of commitment to producing a high quality product on an on going basis.

For many of us, it isn't so much the challenge of getting to perfection that holds us back. After all, I suspect that most people are realists when it comes to batting 1.000. In the real world, most of us find ourselves having trouble moving out of our respective comfort zones and pushing on. Somehow we just can't seem to "get started" or as Michael Bungay Stanier, who I had the good fortune to hear speak at our local ACP chapter meeting recently, puts it, "Getting Unstuck."

Michael, Canadian Coach of the Year among other things, is one of those career coaches who when you first check him out you are thinking "nah, this is too far out for me." "Too idealistic for the real world," but like most good consultants, he overcomes the skepticism by giving his audience examples and tools that can't be ignored. He also does a great job of putting things in a perspective that transforms one's thinking from "there are just too many hurdles to overcome" to one of "wait a minute, this really isn't as impossible as it looks."

To help with putting things in context of the "doable" he has developed a pretty cool set of tools, 10 little cards actually, each of which addresses different aspects of helping someone to "get unstuck." An example:

Provocative quote: "One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time." You are then asked the question: Who's against you? How are you letting that get in your way? Perspective.

One of the tools I liked the best was the card entitled: Probabilities. This card has the following list which comes from ASTD (American Society of Training & Development)

The probability of completing a goal:

10% if you hear an idea.
25% if you consciously decide to adopt it.
40% if you decide when you will do it.
50% if you plan how you will do it.
65% if you commit to someone else you will do it.
95% if you have a specific accountability appointment with the person to whom you committed.

Pretty good list, but one that I had not been aware of until Michael shared it with us.

As I thought about it, it occurred to me that these percentages really play into why it is that we host around 40-50 face to face networking meetings around the U.S. and Canada every month. The meetings give those attending (they are open to anyone) a chance to not only expand their personal and professional networks, but an opportunity to build the kind of relationships that help people to turn their individual 10% probabilities into 95% probabilities.

When people commit to helping each other, good things happen.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Money Isn't Everything & Other Revelations

I was checking out the most recent issue of BusinessWeek while basking in one of the most beautiful weekends of the year. Temp in the low 80's, no humidity to speak of, just enough breeze to keep you cool without having to worry about shade. It felt like the biggest decision for the day would be where to go for some outdoor dinning. The whole experience made me wonder if this is what living in San Diego must be like.

In any case, if you missed it, it was one of their "special issues" called The Competition Issue. Some pretty interesting stuff and among other things, they had some factoids from a survey they had run this past July in which they talked to just over 2500 Americans described as being in "middle management."

One of the questions asked was "Which work objective gets you out of bed in the morning?" Finishing ahead of "a high salary" which came in at 9% were "respect of your peers" (11%); "a good balance of work and home life" (30%) and "knowing you did your job well" (44%)

So there was money coming in as close to "an also ran" and somewhere in the deep furrows of my memory, I recalled not just the statement that money is a short term not a long term motivator, but that it had been empirically demonstrated.

Indeed, in our own annual survey (The Executive Job Market Intelligence Report) we asked the question a bit differently but got a similar answer. Our question was around the reasons that people choose to leave their jobs. 30% of our members said it revolved around personal issues such as limited advancement opportunities, lack of challenge and personal growth. Another 26% said external factors such as company or industry prospects were poor, and another 22% felt the culture match wasn't right for them. Compensation came in at 11%.

So if it isn't the money, what is it? In my head I knew, but as I read the rest of the issue, there was something that Joe Torre said in an essay that he had written for this issue, that w while I am not a Yankee fan, I am a Torre fan, and I thought the way he said it covered it very well. He said:

"...But in the end, it still comes down to people. You have to make people feel necessary. Even if their contributions are minor, it adds to everything else. That's what makes the machine work."
As I closed the magazine, I thought to myself, why does something that seems so self-evident come as a revelation to so many?

Monday, August 07, 2006

Life Changers

Kent Blumberg has a blog in which he shares his thoughts on "leadership, strategy, and performance." There is much that I like about his writing style not the least of which is the sincerity that comes through in the sense that he is simply willing to share. He is not keeping score.

In a recent post, he was prompted to write about his "three most influential teachers" which he says was prompted by a post by George Ambler. Based on Ken's recommendation, I checked out Ambler's blog and immediately added it to my favorites list along with Ken's.

In any case, be they teachers, which I suspect they were for many of us, or maybe even some bosses we've had, there is no question that almost anyone can name two or three people who have touched their lives in such a way so that if someone said name the 3 people who you feel most influenced you by the time you were say 30 (parents & spouses don't count) most people could easily come up with the names.

In Ken's life, the names were Ken, Rod, and Mike. In my case, they are Eddie, Buddy, and Ken. All teachers. All I met when I was 13 and had just moved back to Connecticut from North Dakota. (Not sure if the move was by choice, or as I often say, was due to our family being paroled.)

If you asked me why these three in particular made my top three I am not sure I could really say, all I know is they are there, and it was a "no brainer." That said, if I had to take a shot at explaining why, I guess it was a combination of what each taught me in the class room and on the athletic field. Eddie taught biology, Buddy math, and Ken history. Eddie was an assistant football coach and varsity basketball coach. Bud was the school's AD and head football coach, and Ken coached varsity soccer.

I probably knew Buddy the best as I attended his summer day camp for many years in my early teens, and more importantly, spent almost every Saturday morning back on the school's campus in his class room trying desperately to catch up on my non-existent math skills.

Ken makes the point in writing about the three people in his life that they each taught him something about both himself as well as instilling in him qualities that have remained with him as guiding principals in his professional life.

I guess I would say the same about the three I have mentioned here, and now that I think about it, I suspect that most of us would feel the same about those who have influenced us deeply. It is about the value systems they demonstrated, not in words so much as in behavior. The standards that Ed, Buddy, and Ken set in the classroom were high, but each had his own way of supporting me (and my classmates) in a way that made even those of us who weren't "as smart" to give it our best and in so doing most of us ended up doing far better than we had ever imagined both in the classroom and on the playing fields.

I was an okay football player, a horrible basketball player (so they turned me into a diver in the winter) and in baseball, a disaster waiting to happen (so they turned me into a pole vaulter and javelin thrower). We went undefeated my senior year.

Many years later I was asked to serve on the school's Board of Trustees. At the time I was working in New York City, so making board meetings was not going to be easy, but I said yes instantly. Why? Because among other things I felt it was the least I could to for three men and a school which helped to give me a chance in life that I otherwise would never have had.

I still owe them.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Virtual Handshake

One of the really fun aspects of ExecuNet being a membership organization rather than a subscription is that we get to talk with members all day long both on the phone and by email. There are a lot of benefits that come from that sort of a relationship, one of which is that you get to hear first hand not just what is on people's minds, but you get great ideas on things you can do to help meet their needs.

With the advent of not just the Internet, but the explosion of email, IM, and "social networking" as communication channels of choice for millions, for a long time we had been searching for a subject matter expert on the use of cyberspace for the care and feeding of one's network.

When the book The Virtual Handshake came out we knew we had found the answer in terms of the right resource, the issue was trying to get either David Teten or Scott Allen to slow down long enough from their various and sundry enterprises and speaking engagements so we could put together a webinar on the subject.

Given the degree to which we talk to people about the importance of expanding both one's personal as well as professional network, we are more than just a tad psyched that on the 4th at 4:00 co-author Scott Allen will be presenting a FastTrack webinar which will show the audience how to effectively build a online presence that will help senior level executives to present themselves electronically in a way that builds effective relationships.

To that end, attendance at our networking events has always been open to anyone, be they members of ExecuNet or not. This program is no different