How is it that everyone is so busy yet it seems like nothing ever gets done? Listen to those around you. I guarantee someone is talking about how busy they are—and another person will soon up the ante. We’re competing to win at busyness. Why? Is it to demonstrate that things can’t go on without us? To make us indispensable at work? To prove we have value? We all know that the pace of work life has increased. But are we accomplishing more? No. But we all know we’re supposed to look like we are.

Jobs for many are insignificant, not tied to what they really care about. There are often too many bosses resulting in people being bossed around too much. People rebel through slowness or depression. Yet are often full of anxiety…what if I step on toes? Get out of line? Get fired? The irony is that all this anxiety is about keeping jobs that put money in our pockets but don’t feed our spirits.

In my opinion, the point of life is to make or do something that has some worth. In many workplaces today competing interests get in the way of productivity. When those at the top aren’t incentivized to work together you end up demoralizing those on the front line who work hard but never see any progress. Wouldn’t it be great if people went to work and actually accomplished something instead of just removed obstacles, stayed clear of extra bosses or worried about whether they can keep their jobs?

SuperFreakonomics Book Cover SuperFreakonomics
Steven D. Levitt, Stephen J. Dubner,
Business & Economics
Harper Collins
Tue May 24 2011
320

Review: This book makes you think twice about the assumptions you make every day. It’s a quick, fun, read that is in the same vein as Freakonomics but in my opinion, better. Their style of examining data from seemingly unrelated areas to create thought-provoking mash-ups of information encourages us to challenge traditional thinking and consider many different points of view. This volume has great visuals which add value to the narrative so I’d recommend actually reading vs listening to the book.

It’s an entertaining way to think differently about incentivizing the behavior you want to encourage.

Steve Jobs Book Cover Steve Jobs
Walter Isaacson
Biography & Autobiography
Simon and Schuster
Mon Oct 24 2011
630

Review: This book is a must read given the impact Steve Jobs had on so many different industries. It’s an investment of time—the book is quite long and takes you through his life sequentially—but it definitely held my interest. There’s no denying that he was an incredible creative talent and visionary.

I’ve always been more interested in why he chose to act the way he did. Based on stories I’d heard before I read the book I assumed he did so because he was not self-aware. This book makes it clear that not only was Jobs aware of what he was doing when he treated others poorly; he used it as a strategy. Story after story details appalling behavior towards everyone—friend and foe. I found myself wondering why people would put up with his behavior particularly early in his career/life—before there was any real proof of his talent and his mistreatment of others became part of the mythology surrounding him.

What bothered me most was the implication that his creativity and his bad behavior was linked—that he had to act the way he did in order to achieve on such a massive scale. Certainly there is tension in any creative endeavor. Was it critical that Jobs create full-scale war to inspire and motivate his “troops” to innovate? It appears he seemed to think so. What could have been accomplished if there’d been a bit more of Steve Wozniak’s willingness to collaborate baked into Apple’s DNA? Could they have achieved more with less drama?

Justifying mistreatment of others as part of the creative process gives license to others, less talented, to rationalize their management failings. Let’s hope those types of managers have people and companies that hold them accountable for their behavior toward others.

The Invisible Gorilla Book Cover The Invisible Gorilla
Christopher Chabris, Daniel Simons,
Psychology
Broadway Books
2011-06
306

Review: We’re all so attracted to surety—it was refreshing to learn how wrong—and actually how downright dangerous—such surety could be. This book provided a good reminder that our expectations drive much of our perceptions in life—and taking a few moments to consider that we could, in fact, be wrong is time well spent.

The book examines the science behind six illusions that influence how we believe and behave: the illusions of attention, memory, confidence, knowledge, cause, and potential. The title refers to the experiment that asked participants to count the number of passes in a video of a basketball game. While participants were able to count the passes, up to 50% never saw the gorilla that appeared on screen for several seconds. The hypothesis that we see only what we expect to see was supported in several other studies they cover in the book.

The authors take the same approach to the other illusions they’ve identified which supports their conclusion that we think our mental abilities and capacities are much greater than they actually are. They also provide topline practical suggestions in their conclusion which was a helpful way to tie their research to the everyday workplace.

When did being accountable become optional? Did I miss the memo? Now we learn that MF Global, the brokerage firm that lost $1 BILLION of its customers’ money, is unlikely to face criminal charges. Why? According to the New York Times (http://nyti.ms/OZprdF) it was “chaos and porous risk controls at the firm, rather than fraud, [which] allowed the money to disappear.”

What about the people that created the chaos and risk controls? If there is no downside to lying, cheating, and stealing then not doing so may be seen as a competitive disadvantage. Let’s not kid ourselves. What’s happening in financial institutions is happening elsewhere—it’s just not as flagrant. Why else would there be so many articles, workshops, and books dedicated to teaching accountability?

Really, what’s to learn? You’re responsible for your actions. That’s pretty much what accountability is…the breakdown is that we no longer expect people to “do the right thing.” Now we have to incentivize them because there’s no shame in not being a stand up person.

Our institutions, our government, and our culture reflect what we believe and value. Change needs to come from us. We need to commit to being held accountable ourselves and not tolerate it in other people, our institutions or our government. Otherwise we have only ourselves to blame for the rampant misbehavior in our culture.

Outliers Book Cover Outliers
Malcolm Gladwell
Business & Economics
Head of Zeus
Tue Nov 18 2008
309

Review: This book is a good reminder that while successful people are certainly talented, their success has more to do with access to resources that allowed them to develop their talents—and to fortuitous market timing that allowed them to leverage their unique talents in the marketplace exactly when they were needed. This book gives you a more thoughtful and dimensional way to think about the success stories that are bandied about so often—and reminds us that no one succeeds strictly on their own merits.

Gladwell is an entertaining storyteller and is able to make sociology engaging—no mean feat. While you’ll not walk away with practical strategies, it is a good reminder that things are not always what they seem and we need to challenge the truisms that are so prevalent in our culture.

Made to Stick Book Cover Made to Stick
Chip Heath, Dan Heath,
Contagion (Social psychology.)
2007
291

Review: With most of us tasked with coming up with innovative ideas at work it’s worth exploring what makes a good idea “sticky”. The authors cover the 6 elements they’ve identified as critical: simplicity, unexpectedness, concreteness, credibility, emotions, and stories.

Not surprisingly they use these techniques in making their case—which makes this a fun, relevant, read. It contains practical, tangible strategies you can start to use immediately so you can quickly see for yourself how the insights they’ve uncovered in their research can make a real difference in your own work. Definitely worth your time.

Speaking truth to power is essential in a democratic society. As questions about Joe Paterno’s legacy and NCAA sanctions consumes the airwaves, let’s not forget Vicky Triponey who stood up to Joe Paterno to ensure that all students are treated equally.

As Penn State’s VP of Student Affairs, she consistently and vocally resisted efforts to influence student disciplinary actions by coaches, board members, and alumni. Originally she had the support of Penn State’s administration. However when the team’s record improved her recommendations were overruled and disciplinary penalties on those associated with the football program was lessened. She resigned in 2007 after years of harassment. During the investigation of Jerry Sandusky the Freeh Report investigators sought her opinion of the Penn State culture which she described as “insular and secretive.”

Corrupt cultures allow bad behavior to thrive. It can start innocently enough. Pride in your team can quickly escalate to arrogance which puts self-interest above the institution. Winning provides financial reward which translates to power. Without values power becomes arbitrary and unmanageable. We need people like Ms. Triponey who are willing to speak up—in the face of tremendous pressure and personal cost—and we need to be willing to listen.

“You’ve got to change the culture, and the culture is deep. It’s not just the leaders. It permeates the place. I think they have an interconnectiveness in their passion for their football program. But I’m not sure that’s a genuine sense of community. It’s a sense of pride. It’s a sense of prestige.” At this point, most would agree that the culture of Penn State must change.

A healthy culture in our institutions benefits everyone. Let’s hope our corporations have millions of people like Vicky Triponey who keep their focus on the bigger picture and are willing to take a stand so that everyone can thrive.

Reset Book Cover Reset
Kurt Andersen
Business & Economics
Random House Incorporated
2009
74

Review: This is an interesting read about how the meltdown our culture has been through provides an opportunity to recalibrate so that we move forward in a more productive, humane way in our work and lives. It is broad in scope touching on economic, political, and societal trends but practical in nature. The author provides examples we can all relate to while putting our current situation into a historical context. It is a refreshing way to counter the relentlessly negative news regarding our dark world situation.

 

 

There’s a lot to learn from Ann Curry’s behavior during the recent Today Show dust-up that led to her departure. For weeks a whispering campaign suggested that her performance was responsible for the show’s slide in ratings. Universally liked, Ms. Curry maintained radio silence while NBC let her twist in the wind.

Watching Ms. Curry, you would never know there was anything wrong during her weeks in limbo. She continued to show up, do her job, and kept her personal feelings to herself. She embodied the ultimate in self-management.

Lessons we can all learn from her include:

• Stay true to your values. Ms. Curry has stated repeatedly that loyalty is important to her. She walked the talk even when it didn’t appear that the network was going to reciprocate.
• Be strategic. Ms. Curry kept her focus on her long-term goal. She said repeatedly she wanted to remain with NBC—her behavior made it virtually impossible for them to sever their relationship entirely.
• Maintain your professionalism. By taking the high road Ms. Curry kept the focus on the problem—declining ratings—instead of escalating the drama and becoming a distraction.

While Ms. Curry was ultimately asked to leave the Today Show, the network acknowledged her prowess in hard news reporting by making her an NBC correspondent. Her expertise in managing perceptions allowed her to make the best of a bad situation while engendering public sympathy. While most of us will never have to have our work dramas play out in such a public forum, the example Ms. Curry has set will serve us in good stead when it’s our turn on the hot seat.

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Taking Control of Your Career® Bootcamp Content Overview

Our Bootcamp is designed to get you back to feeling like yourself fast. To avoid overwhelm, we cover critical topics sequentially so you can make small changes quickly and experience immediate results.

1. New Beginnings

We start by creating a clear picture of your desired outcome and showing how feeling stuck can benefit you. You’ll also learn how to increase your physical and mental energy and a quick (less than 5 minutes!), easy way to improve your mood.

2. Setting Yourself Up For Success

It’s easier to succeed when your environment completely supports you. You’ll learn how to easily analyze yours and bring it into alignment. We’ll also cover techniques for viewing your work situation in a neutral, productive way–allowing you to move within it effortlessly.

3. Values & Standards

Values impact your behaviors, decisions, relationships and direction in life. Yet your values are often not aligned with your workplace. Standards are what we honor because we believe they will lead us to our goals. Logically you’d think high standards would result in a superior result but just the opposite often occurs. In this session we’ll cover how to maintain your standards when they’re not shared and how to stay true to yourself without making it an issue for others.

4. How Your Best Intentions Work Against You

If you’re like most achievers, you welcome and thrive on responsibility. Sometimes, however, your life can feel like one long “to do” list leaving little time to figure out what is working – or not – in your life. We’ll cover how to retrain your teammates, how to redefine your role and the concept of “responsibility without authority” – having one without the other makes success impossible.

5. Core Beliefs

Understanding how personal beliefs drive behavior is critical to freeing you from feeling trapped. This is a deeply personal and important aspect necessary to move into action. You’ll learn how to uncover the core belief that is out of alignment and the 5 step process you can use to replace it.

6. Who is in Control of Your Life?

Control is like catnip to high achievers – we all want it. But surprisingly few exercise control in the one area where they actually have it. This cycle of relentlessly trying to get control over an uncontrollable situation is exhausting and self–defeating. Resetting expectations so you can focus on fulfilling activities will provide the energy you need to regain your perspective and take action.

7. Setting Boundaries

If you’re surrounded by those who constantly violate your boundaries it will create conflict, drama and drain your energy. When you set and maintain appropriate boundaries you will experience an almost immediate reduction of stress. We will review the 5–step boundary setting process; discuss how to hold the line without alienating others or compromising your standards, and the implications of not being able to say “no”.

8. The Path Forward

Your work each session will have helped you uncover your personal traps and provided strategies for overcoming them. We’ll do a quick review and focus on how to use your strategic plan so you’ll never get in this situation again. We’ll also review how to appropriately take responsibility, how to manage workplace expectations and perceptions and the best habits for self–management when “overwhelm” strikes again – as it inevitably will.

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