Tag Archive | Leadership

Conflict and Communication

Why the First Can’t be Solved Without the Latter.

No conflict can be solved without communication.

This is a short post because the main point is in the first line.

To bring this point home, I offer you a short story.

Devin recently graduated from college and is eager to excel in his new position. He is motivated and wants to have an impact on the company.

Devin’s boss, Jeff, has been with the company for 22 years. He knows how things operate at the company and has grown accustomed to the process he has built over time.

After several months in the position, Devin begins to feel frustrated because his ideas seem to constantly be overlooked. He was hoping to contribute big things right away, but it seems as though no one is interested in trying anything new.

Jeff is frustrated too. While Devin is doing a good job in his role, he is constantly questioning the process that Jeff has been using for 22 years.

In this scenario, both the boss and the employee are frustrated. This frustration is leading to tension in the workplace; so much so that Devin has begun looking for a new job.

So what should they do?

The answer is simple, but not easy. They should communicate.

There is no clear cut answer for this scenario. This is why effective communication becomes so vital.

Devin may sit down with Jeff and say, “Jeff, I respect your knowledge of the business, and would love to sit down with you once a week to learn from you.”

In this way, Devin can bring his ideas to the weekly conversation in a non-aggressive way. He could say, “I had an idea that could potentially improve our business; I’d like to run it by you because I’m sure you have insights that I’m missing.”

Similarly, Jeff could check in with Devin and become a more active manager. He could say, “Devin, let’s sit down once every two weeks to just check in. You can bring thoughts my way, and I’ll listen. Keep in mind, we may not use them, but it will be helpful to discuss.”

By doing this, Jeff is letting Devin know that his thoughts are valued, even if they are not acted upon. He can also use this time to teach Devin more about the business so his ideas are more aligned with the 22-year-old process he has already established.

However, if neither Devin nor Jeff approach each other for a conversation, the tension in the office will continue to grow. Devin will feel under-appreciated, and Jeff will write off Devin as someone who can’t “get with the program.”

This is just one example of conflict resolution. There are thousands of examples out there. But one thing remains true through them all:

No conflict can be solved without communication.

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Your New Year’s Resolutions Are Broken

There are two things you need to do right now to fix them and make them work for you

I hear people making New Year’s Resolutions every single year that flat out won’t work.

People tell themselves that they are going to exercise every day or lose all the weight they didn’t lose during their last New Year’s Resolution.

These promises are empty and the outcomes are unlikely.

Why?

Two reasons.

The New Year’s Resolutions people make:

  1. Are not “lifestyle” resolutions, but “challenge” resolutions
  2. Are not long-term and actionable

Let me tell you how to fix your resolutions.

Lifestyle Resolutions

Accomplishing anything of significance takes time, effort, and dedication with a long-term outcome in mind.

Losing weight doesn’t happen with a 28-day-cleanse or working out 3 days a week to start the year.

These are “challenges,” but the goal of challenges should be to form habits that become a part of your lifestyle. If forming lifestyle habits is not the goal, your resolutions will fall apart.

Want to lose weight? Sign up for a race (even if you are out of shape now) then join a running group to help you train for it. Ask the people in your running group what they eat to prepare for races, and slowly start to fill your fridge with the items they recommend.

This is one example of a lifestyle change resolution.

It is something that happens over time to make your desired outcome come true. It is less about challenging yourself for the month of January and evaluating yourself (which will leave you disappointed), but rather it is about looking ahead to where you want to be and making slow and steady progress.

One more example so you know this is not just another weight loss blog.

Want to get promoted at work this year? Look to prove your value in a long-term, sustainable way.

Talk with your boss about your goals and plans, and ask what you need to do to get where you’d like to be. Let the feedback be your guide towards the promotion you’re after. This way, you’re setting a collaborative roadmap, and similar to training for a race, you have an aim for success that is macro instead of micro.

Long-term, actionable resolutions

Coming into a new year should be motivating, but what happens when that initial motivation goes away?

When you challenge yourself to set long-term goals, you give yourself the opportunity to mess up a few times and still get to where you want to be. It’s much better than the all-too-common, “I didn’t work out last week so I think my resolution is over” feeling.

Let’s say you’d like to set a financial goal for yourself.

Some people say, “I want to go out to eat twice a week or less to save money.” This is a terrible resolution. As soon as you eat out three times in a week, you lose and there is no going back.

A better resolution would be, “I’d like to have x amount of money in my bank account by the end of the year.” This is a long-term goal that allows you to set actionable timelines along the way.

If you know how much you want to have at the end of the year, you can then plan what you’ll have to make/spend each month leading up to that moment.

This means that you’re allowed to go on a shopping spree every now and then; your resolution won’t be broken by one splurge. It is a long-term goal that you are taking action toward every day, week, and month.

Here is how a better resolution could look:

Goal:

Have x amount of money in my bank account by the end of the year

High level action Items:

Make a monthly budget based on my income and evaluate how I did each month

Tactical action items:

Eat at restaurants twice a week or less

Spend only x amount of money per month on items that aren’t “necessities.” Examples being: new clothes/shoes or daily soda/coffee (even if this is a “necessity” for you, could you do a medium instead of a large at Starbucks? Could you do a coffee instead of a latte?)

This is just one example of how determining a large, overarching goal and creating an action plan to get there is important. Decide where you want to be, then just like Google Maps, determine the best route and take it.

It is not easy to make New Year’s resolutions that will actually work. It’s hard. This is why no one does it.

But if you actually want to accomplish your goals this year, here’s how to do it in two sentences:

  1. Make long-term, actionable resolutions that change your lifestyle, not just your immediate actions.
  2. Make it happen.

And if you’d like help creating great resolutions, don’t hesitate to reach out. I’d love to help you get on a path to a better you.

Photo credit: http://www.wdish.com/health/5-ways-make-your-workout-more-efficient

New Years Reassessments-The Issue with Your Resolutions

How are your New Years resolutions coming? Are you sticking with it? All those, “I will work out every single day” promises or, “I am going to stop cursing this year” commitments that you made. How are you doing?

People have asked me about my New Years resolutions. And the truth is, I don’t have any.

Why?

New Years resolutions create a scenario where all you can do is mess up. You missed one workout day? Shoot. You lost. You dropped an F bomb when you stubbed your toe? Too bad. Try again next year.

I’m not saying that you can’t jump back on and recommit to your resolution, but every time you mess up, the vision of what you’re doing becomes less and less clear.

I’ve never talked to anyone who said, “Yeah, I said I wasn’t going to curse at all this year. I’ve done it 629 times, but I’m starting again tomorrow; it’s going to be a great year.”

By then, people usually give up. This is the more likely scenario: “Yeah, I said I wasn’t going to curse at all this year. That lasted a whole ten days, but it was hard as *%&$ to keep up.

I’d like to propose a better way: placing the focus on the end of the year instead of the beginning.

At every New Year, people say, “Where am I right now and how can I change?” I’m suggesting we start saying, “Where would I like to be at this time next year and how can I get there?”

So instead of the, “Do this every day” or “I won’t do this” resolutions, write one down that says, “I’d like to have X amount of money in my savings account by the end of the year.” If fitness is your target, “I’d like to weigh X by the end of the year.”

This type of resolution takes the focus off of messing up, and places it on moving forward. This allows you to look at your “resolutions” (they’ve actually become more like goals now) every day and feel less like you’ve taken a wrong turn and more like you’re on the road to victory.

The best part? On those days that you do struggle, all is not lost. There’s no, “Shoot, I messed up. It’s over.” moment. You have an incentive to keep working at it because you’re not looking back on what you’ve done, you’re looking forward to what needs to be done. In this scenario, every day becomes an opportunity to move closer to success as opposed to a recipe for failure.

So I’ll ask you again. How are your resolutions coming? Are you sticking to it? No? Well, there’s always time to stop looking back and start looking forward. Make resolutions that keep your eye on the prize; set yourself up to succeed, and as always, let me know how you do.

Why Does Everyone Hate Routine?

spiral-clock

 

I’ve heard it a million times…

“I’m just trying to get out of the day-to-day routine.”

Believe it or not, the routine is not the enemy.

The idea of doing things the same way has gotten an unwarranted negative stigma, especially if the way things are being done is efficient and effective.

There is precision in repetition.

There is a reason a basketball player shoots 50 free-throws in practice, a reason the assembly line revolutionized the auto industry, and a reason establishing a routine in your daily life will prove beneficial.

Routines get a bad reputation because people tend to get stuck in them. If routines are consistently updated, and flexibility and innovation are top priorities, that issue no longer exists.

Everything from managing your work time to organizing the sequence of events you go through to get ready in the morning can benefit from consistency. Routines matter.

So here are three things to consider when looking to set a productive routine:

 

  1. The better you can be at establishing a process, documenting the process, and following the steps each time, the more efficient you will become.
  2. The better you are at setting non-interrupted work times with specific outcomes in mind, the more focused and results-oriented you will become.
  3. And the better you get at planning your spontaneity, the more enjoyable it will be knowing that all your other tasks and timelines are right where they need to be.

As you push yourself to build an effective routine, keep in mind the famous words of Aristotle:

We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.

The Snapchat Effect

bwb

The world is full of people using Snapchat.

While this may be efficient for communication, what it does to our attention span is scary.

The amount of information being thrown at us by the day, hour, and minute has led us to placing such a high value on efficiency that skimming information has basically become hard-wired into our DNA.

But there is an issue with this.

The higher we value efficiency, the less we seem to value information, and as Gordon Gekko says,

“The most valuable commodity I know of is information.”

I’m not coming down on the idea of being efficient. I’m simply stating that it is extremely difficult to learn anything new or retain knowledge if we only read or listen to a quarter of the information while only paying half attention.

The next time you read a book, watch a TED Talk, click on an article, peruse your e-mail, or attend an event, here is a quick list of tips:

  1. Give it your full attention. If you need to set it down and come back to it later, fine, but at least you aren’t doing it halfway.
  2. Reflect on what you’ve just read, seen, or experienced. Let it sink in. In this way, you will better be able to remember it at relevant times in the future.
  3. Don’t procrastinate. If you get an e-mail, read it fully, answer it fully, and move on. When things pile up, you’ll need to catch up, and this will suck your time and attention.

So continue to use Snapchat. I don’t mind at all. But also commit to dedicating time and attention when necessary, and if you’ve gotten to this sentence without skimming the post, you’re on the right track.

 

 

How to Get a Job at Google; Takeaways for a High School Student

the-internship-trailer 

This article has made major ripples in the hiring waters recently because Google has stated that GPAs and test scores are “worthless” and that the proportion of people without college degrees working at Google has increased over time.

What should you be taking from this as a high school student about to head to the college level?

1. Take Initiative

One of the biggest criticisms of the Millennial generation is that they always need to be told what to do and how to do it. You will absolutely set yourself apart if you specialize in getting things done. This means that you don’t fear doing things incorrectly and that you’re willing to put yourself out there. The head basketball coach at Marquette, Buzz Williams, said in an interview that he sent hundreds of hand-written letters to coaches around the country before being offered his first position. What will you do that your peers are too scared, lazy, or unprepared to do to get what you desire?

2. Be Willing to Learn

Recognize that you don’t know everything. Some of the most innovative products have come from asking seemingly stupid questions. When you think you’ve learned everything you can, then you start placing blame on those around you when things go wrong. Always be ready to take feedback and improve. The article calls this “Intellectual humility.”

3. Gain Experience

As the relevance of test scores and GPAs decreases, it will be increasingly important that you prove yourself in your field. Get internships or jobs that relate to your area of study, volunteer, network, etc. As a Freshman in college, business professionals will be impressed if you try to set up a lunch meeting simply to pick their brain (this goes back to taking initiative). The more experience you have working on teams, learning from different environments, and excelling at various levels, the more willing a company like Google will be to give you a shot.


At the end of the day, I don’t work at Google, and I can’t give you a perfect blueprint for being hired there. I can, however, promise you that doing the three things above will put you in a better position to get a great job or start your own company after college. Good luck!

What Flappy Bird Can Teach You About Focus

Recently, two different people asked me, “What’s your best score in Flappy Bird?” To this I responded with that awkward laugh that always follows a statement that I completely don’t understand. I think to myself, “What is Flappy Bird and why are people so interested in my score?”

I then went onto Twitter and saw several people post about their Flappy Bird scores (you can see that I was sure to favorite them).

Tweet from @jviall:
Flappy Bird Tweet
High score from @RoskomShaela:

Flappy Birds Image

….then I went to Instagram and saw a meme with the little winged protagonist (photo from @aeastdeca).
Screen Shot 2014-01-28 at 3.48.19 PM

So I downloaded the game and proceeded to spend about two hours leading the tiny sparrow to it’s untimely demise again and again. As I played, two things occurred to me about the concept of focus, and I thought I’d share those with you here.

1. It is much easier to stay focused when the objective is clear. In Flappy Bird, all you have to do is navigate successfully…that’s it. In basketball, all you have to do is score more points than your opponent. So when you direct your attention to your homework, a chore, a work project, or anything else, be sure to have a clearly defined objective in mind. If you don’t know what it is, you may lose focus faster than I lose in Flappy Bird.

2. Motion creates emotion. Flappy Bird forces you to tap your screen more than once per second (I wonder if any long-nailed individuals have cracked their screen while playing yet). I’m not telling you to start tapping your History textbook and it will become interesting; what I’m saying is that your brain will stay more engaged if you give yourself a break every now and then to move. Get up. Move around your office, house, or classroom. If what you are doing is not pushing you physically, you may need to plan times that you will remove yourself briefly so you can come back re-energized and ready to focus in.

I still laugh awkwardly when someone asks me, “What’s your best score in Flappy Bird?”

Why?

Because the answer is only 11.

What’s your best score in Flappy Bird? Tweet me @FOCUS_Kyle and let me know.
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