Just Start Now

Several of my friends and family have heard me preach this by now, so it’s probably past time for me to write a blog post on it. Think positive! If there’s only one message to be taken from my many posts, I hope this is it.

My well-read dad often sends me interesting article links. This one happens to be from one of my favorite sources, the Harvard Business Review. In short, the article states that positive thinking has measurable effects on your productivity, your likelihood to receive a promotion, your health, and especially your creativity. The author also gives a plethora of concrete advice on how to practice positive thinking. This is as good as gold in my opinion!

To add my own twist on why thinking positive is so valuable I want to emphasize two things:

1) Thinking positive means shifting your perspective on the many things in life that are beyond our immediate control–it does not mean refraining from all fear, sadness or pain. (For those who saw Pixar’s Inside Out, we know these emotions are important too!) Choosing and practicing thinking positive is like forming mental habits that reorganize your default way of thinking, so that when you do need to feel these heavier emotions you have a space for them when necessary, and a way to return to lightness when ready.

2) Thinking positive changes your relationships in a significant way. Again, unfortunately I have no hard data to support this, but I see people come out of their shells and change their entire demeanor (which eventually increases their willingness to think, give, take smart risks, etc.) when they are given permission to be positive. When one person in the room confidently establishes this positive thinking precedent it increases the collective value of a family, team, or group and it is very inspiring.

But don’t read me wrong–this takes practice! You will probably find it uncomfortable, strange, or simply forget to do this regularly, unless you make it intentional. But, hey, this might be the best investment ever of your time and energy… Free Up-Front, meet Personal Gold.


Change Your Instincts, Change the Game

I was introduced to this great quote at a workshop, “Culture eats strategy for breakfast every morning.” The workshop was about why it’s important to foster a positive workplace culture because this facilitates curiosity and problem solving. Furthermore, the workshop posited, if you push strategy without positive culture, you inevitably run into major roadblocks. If you have managed people or been part of a professional team, this is intuitive enough. However, I find it more interesting to examine how the two are inter-related, and what instincts a strong leader must employ to navigate momentary decisions of culture over strategy and vice versa.

As I have stated before, the ideas that follow are simply my own theorizing, I do not have evidence or data to support my thoughts (although some day I hopefully will). In one sense it seems culture is the art, strategy is the science. Or, culture is the mystical, strategy is the concrete, or finally, culture is the sympathy for people’s individual needs and preferences, and strategy is the push to accomplish organizational objectives. I’m being borderline facetious here, but making these analogies helps me examine the relationship between the two. I think one’s ability to juggle culture and strategy is rooted in knowing one’s current place/presence/perspective, and consistently reading/discussing/architecting the world one operates in. In other words, this balance takes a lot of work, but if you front load the self-reflection and awareness building, which I think we often fall short of, the remaining work is much easier and more likely to be successful.

Some practical ways to do this self-reflection include writing a blog or journal, identifying your top five values, consistently writing and re-writing your own (current or desired) job description. Building awareness of your work context (and not just a specific location or group, although this could be the case) likely should include regular reading on industry trends, gaining various stakeholders’ perspectives, planning with end goals in mind and using multiple routes to reach those goals. Ultimately my mission is to make these activities so routine that my instincts are sharply crafted, opening more of my brain energy to rare opportunities that are beyond strategy because they change the game in its entirety.

Embrace the Edge

How do you get the most out of your employees, peers, coworkers? Shouldn’t this be a question that we are all curious about? I hope so. If not you risk boredom, and if there’s one thing I hate, it’s lack of an engaged mind.

Currently I am reading a book called Multipliers by Liz Wiseman. In short, Wiseman explores why some leaders seem to multiply the intelligence of those around them while others diminish it. I highly recommend the book–there are many helpful tools that can be easily implemented. One Multipliers concept I have formed into a personal mantra is “embrace the edge”. In other words, as a balancing factor for my love of fun at work, I make a daily effort to know when and how to push people to get the most out of them. This is not without consideration for what is best for the person, on the contrary it’s actually for that exact purpose. When leaders depart from the feel good approach and constructively demand the intelligence their employees are capable of, both the employee and organization win in big ways.

However, and for those who know my thinking patterns, there is almost always a “but”, “however”, caveat, etc., I typically do not believe in hard and fast rules of life. In this case successfully pushing people to perform beyond their capabilities, is based in a trusting relationship. How do you develop this level of trust? You develop yourself! You read articles like this. You spend quality time with your employees–not just observing what they do, but having uninterrupted conversation with them about whatever they want to share. You listen to their concerns and suggestions, take risks on these ideas sometimes and take risks not pursuing them at others (and you know the difference between the two).

To conclude, getting results out of your colleagues starts with intention and takes shape by having an edge (loose pun intended). In my experience both of these will be successful only when a person has a strong sense of self-knowledge, which facilitates the tenuous balance of control and release. In other words, identify the way and then stay out of it!