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Year: 2011

Extreme New Year

Around this time many people stop, consider their life mission and set resolutions. Ongoing studies show that around 78% of these resolutions are never kept or achieved, which means around 22% are kept or achieved. If you are in the larger group that too often misses annual goals, which can lead to disappointment or if you are in the smaller group that reach your resolutions, but finds faint satisfaction in getting what you thought you wanted, I offer two very different goal setting approaches to consider for 2012.

First is a free online tool for people who can’t think of what resolutions they want to make for the new year. It is called The Resolution Generator. Just click the GIMME MORE button at the bottom of the web page and one resolution after another appears for your consideration, choosing and semiconscious commitment.

The second option is an excerpt from the book What Color is your Parachute by Richard Nelson Bolles. It offers a 180 degree different perspective on this topic and an action plan. It is called “Your Three Mission in Life” or ” How to Find Your Mission in Life.” Here is a shortened version:

” (1) Your first Mission here on Earth is one which you share with the rest of the human race, but it is no less your individual Mission for the fact that it is shared: and it is, to seek out and find, in daily — even hourly — communication, the One from whom your Mission is derived. The Missioner before the Mission is the rule.
(2) Secondly, once you have begun doing that in an earnest way, your second Mission here on Earth is also one which you share with the rest of the human race, and that is, to do what you can, moment by moment, day by day, step by step, to make this world a better place, following the leading and guidance of God’s Spirit within you and around you.
(3) Thirdly, once you have begun doing that a serious way, your third Mission here on Earth is one which is uniquely yours, and that is: a) to exercise that Talent which you particularly came to Earth to use — your greatest gift, which you most delight to use, b) in the place(s) or setting(s) which God has caused to appeal to you the most, c) and for those purposes which God most needs to have done in the world.”
When this 3 part approach is fleshed out, I think you will find that career and life resolution setting will be easier and, most likely, more successful, but not nearly as expeditious as the first option.

Journal Entry: I thought about offering another more middle of the road approach, a kind of lukewarm activity that lies comfortably between the extremes of the Resolution Generator and Three Missions, but I have learned that it is better to be either hot or cold when going after what you want in your leadership and life.

One of the toughest decisions is realizing that you have to make one. – Doug Dyer

It’s a funny thing about life: if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it. – W. Somerset Maugham

Adults Only

There are no problems more difficult to solve than personnel issues at work.

She grew up in the country and worked her way through nursing school. After graduation and passing the state board exams, she began her job at a large hospital. She was a natural leader and after a few years was promoted to be a supervisor. At the end of her first year as a manager, she was told she needed to complete a formal evaluation of all her employees and review it with them. Her manager handed her the appraisal forms, wished her luck and told her to be done by the end of the week.

Thankfully most of her direct reports were very good workers. At their review sessions she told them so, and then she asked each person for ways she could make this a better place to work. The most common recommendation was to fire Darlene, the nurse with the perpetually bad attitude. Darlene had rightfully earned her reputation, which resulted in her to being transferred from department to department year after year to become the next manager’s thorn in the flesh.

Now it was the new manager’s turn to face Darlene. At the appointed time, she sat down with the tenured employee and reviewed her paper work, wondering all the while how she would confront her with the truth about her negative impact on people. Since she had no management training, she decided to model the best manager she knew, her mama. She said, “Darlene, you are loyal to this hospital. You care for the patients and I appreciate that, but you are mean to the people you work with.” Darlene stared at her.

The still-wet-behind-the-ears manager shared with Darlene a few real examples of how she had acted and quoted things she had said to others. There was silence. Then Darlene said “I did not know I came across that way.” She thanked the young manager for her truthfulness. Darlene apologized and stopped acting so mean. Teamwork improved. The two became best friends and worked together for the next 20 years.

This is a true story. It was told to me by a now retired director of nursing of a major hospital about when, as she said, “I didn’t know any better.” Which is to say, she had not yet been instructed on the politically correct ways of cuddling and counseling employees nor had she reverted to ego driven threat tactics nor succumbed to the peer pressure of leading by avoidance. She had used sincere common sense to confront an adult as if they were an adult and expected that adult to act like one.

Journal Entry: What complex people situations are you facing that could benefit from a straight forward and genuine approach? How might your use of adult-only honesty to create an opening for someone to discover the answer they need to become better in their leadership and life?

He who rebukes a person will in the end gain more favor than he who has a flattering tongue. – Proverbs 28: 23

Real professionals crave to be held accountable. Do them the favor. – M.A. Tate

Sometimes you have the take the hit for your team. – Joe Dumars

Three Questions Played Out

For the last 2 years I’ve had the privilege of leading a portion of an annual leadership weekend retreat for Troop 63 of The Boy Scouts of America. It is held at The University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee. The purpose of this weekend retreat is to encourage and refocus high school scouts who are naturally distracted by new car fumes and perfume daily. Our hope is to create a compelling experience that will help them stay on track to achieve Eagle Scout and to make better informed college, career and life decisions. This program was conceived and designed by Norman Jetmundsen, operationalized by the troop leaders, and supported by selected professors, coaches and administrators at Sewanee.

Last year the 45 scouts and 12 troop leaders attend the Saturday night awards dinner where the Dean of Students gave the closing talk. He began with these words, “There are three key questions in life: First, who am I? Second, what are my strengths? And third, what is my place in the world?” He added, “By the way, these questions are in priority order.” His speech was short and inspiring. When we debriefed the retreat with the boys the next day, a 14-year-old quoted the 3 questions as a takeaway for him. We were pleased.

Many smart people get placed in leadership’s roles, but smart only takes them so far. Before they can be a leader they need to address these three questions as proposed. People who answer them in reverse order are easy to spot. They say the right words in public, but when out of the spotlight they act from a place of arrogance and pride. Focused on question three, they sidestep any serious consideration of the other questions. When times are smooth, they seem to do fine; but, when times are tough they don’t. Focused inwardly on themselves, the people they are supposed to lead either slide down to their level, or they skedaddle. Phony finally fails.

On the contrary, those who work to answer the questions in proper order are more effective, even in hard times, because their influence is built on a foundation of humility and confidence. Focused outwardly on others, these authentic leaders reinforce an individual’s core values and positive characteristics, encourage people to play to their strengths, and guide them to find a role where they can excel. Sincerity strengthens success.

Journal Entry: Which question is your starting place? Who are the people in your world that need to face these three questions in order to advance in Leadership and Life?

By appreciation we make excellence in others our own property. – Voltaire

Your Career or Your Life

Career misfits can shorten your life.
A 15-year study on aging conducted by the US Department of Health and Human Services, found the strongest predictor of longevity was work satisfaction. The second best predictor was overall happiness. These two socio-physiological measures predicted longevity better than a physician’s exam of physical functioning, measure of use of tobacco, or genetic inheritance. Controlling these other variables statistically did not alter the dominant role of work satisfaction.

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review tilted, Must Success Cost so Much?, reported on a five-year study involving 2,000 managers and their spouses. Research concluded that a manager, who is unhappy in their work environment or career, has a limited chance of being happy at home. The report stated that when an individual feels competent and satisfied in their work – not simply contented, but challenged – negative spillover at home does not exist.

Last month my new partner and I visited a company that designs and promotes corporate wellness programs. Its mission is to help organizations control rising healthcare costs. The CEO mentioned that even though their clients benefit from multi-dimensional wellness programs, there are two preventative actions that can reduce healthcare expense more than anything else: 1.) employees having an annual physical exam, 2.) taking medication as prescribed. Without these foundational practices in place, the impact of sponsoring gym memberships, personal trainers and weight management programs were minimal. However, with the two basics in place, the ROI could improve significantly.

Journal Entry: If you believe that being in a career that challenges you, getting an annual checkup and following a prescribed plan, can have a positive influence on your life, doesn’t it make sense that having a professional career checkup annually could contribute to more success and happiness in your leadership and life?

Friends & Focus Remembered

Making a change is simple; managing the transition is not.

Chinese fortune cookie messages and Chinese food share a common characteristic; both are easy not to remember. This assumption was about to change for me. Not long after my decision to leave a 10 year partnership at Vantage Associates and join my new firm HRM, an oriental waiter handed me a fortune cookie. It read, “Your judgment is a bit off at this time. Rely on friends.” I read it twice. I put it in my wallet.

When a significant change occurs, whether by choice or coercion, most people get off their game as they move through the highs and lows of transition. Different personalities respond in different ways. Some people second-guess their decision, feel a nagging sense of doom, over analyze and shut down. Others act fast, get very busy, dislodge their brain-to-tongue filter and do things they regret. Chief among stress-induced unproductive behaviors is neglecting to seek advice, either by hiding from people altogether, or just not listening to wise friends who can help.

Wisdom gained via good counsel is not breaking news. Over the centuries prophets, priests and parents have echoed this refrain. The Old Testament Book of Proverbs states, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.” (15:22 NIV). Books of truth abound offering answers on how to live well in a changing world, but more often than not, the answers in those books are revealed to us at the right time in unexpected ways.

Last month I went back to that Chinese restaurant. The food was good – I think. My fortune cookie read, “Use your abilities at this time to stay focused on your goal. You will succeed.” I’m glad I didn’t get this last month. I would have left it on the table. Now I have two fortunes in my wallet. Both are worth remembering.

Journal Entry: What change do you expect to be facing in the near future? What do you need to remember not to forget? Which friends will you rely on during the transitions in your leadership and life?

Note of Gratitude: I thank each friend who has reached out to me since my career move from to HRM. I apologize for not being in touch for a while. I would enjoy hearing from each of you. You can reach me with this email, mike@hrmasap.com. I will get back to you soon.

Simplifying your life frees up time for you to figure out what really matters.

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