Archive for May, 2015

Change and our Comfort Zones

May 26th, 2015

change-books

 

Change Happens

 

Change, like another entity that goes with the word “happen”, happens. We as human beings are affected by change daily. As someone who has been working for nearly three decades, I have seen a lot of change both in my chosen industry and in the world itself, especially the technical world.

 

As a personal example regarding technical changes, I wrote my bachelor’s honors thesis on the college’s mainframe word processing system, which took learning a whole new computer language just for that one paper. My master’s thesis was written on my old manual typewriter that skipped spaces if you backspaced to correct mistakes. I had a commodore computer in the 90s and one of those funky green iMacs a decade or so later… As a teacher I used a mimeograph (google this, if you want) for several years before photocopying was done. Now I have a desk that has a camera on it and there is no overhead projector to be found at the university where I teach.

 

Each change I have experienced over the years has not been easy for me, but to remain part of the mainstream of my profession I have needed to move on, I have needed to embrace the new ideas and then learn how to use those new ideas to develop the skills required to carry out and make the changes and then finally I have then had to make plans for further positive change. Change is on-going. It is fluid. It happens, with our without my approval.

 

Nobody likes to change

 

The reason I am thinking about change today is because of a couple of conversations I have had recently, and because of the fact that my own life has changed a lot in the past few years. Thus, this past weekend I have been thinking out change.

 

My friend said this weekend, “nobody wants to change”. He is pretty much right, but does that mean we, as leaders, don’t talk about change, or do we find a way to engage those stakeholders in thinking positively about change? According to Kotter’s 8-step model of change (see the photo with the books), one of the first things that needs to be done is to establish some sort of sense of urgency, a need for the change. Let’s put this thought for the moment aside and consider when to change.

 

When is the best time to effect change

 

Much energy is expended in order to bring about any change. In fact, the energy expended for any change can be seen as a bell curve (see figure 2). But the problem lies in the fact that if you want to bring about a change without expending a whole lot of energy, you need to change while you are still expending energy from the last change. Thus, it is best to start the change-ball in motion and just keep it going rather than starting and stopping all the time. Now, that’s a challenging idea!

 

Create Urgency

 

How do you get the people who will be effecting the change behind the idea? I guess that is where your personal leadership style comes into play. I have seen change processes that were well explained with logical reasoning, starting with the urgent need. Those changes went well, considering everything. But I have seen others that were not “sold” as urgent to the employees, and the change management was not well carried-out. A well thought out reasoning for the change that is clearly communicated to the stakeholders brings most people on board so that the change can be well executed. Finally, that’s where Figure 1 comes into this blog. The magic happens outside our comfort zones. I love the visual and give my friend, Jeff Spencer, the credit for it from his blog on Saturday. If change happens, I want to get into that river of change and go with its flow.

Passion is Perseverance’s Power

May 18th, 2015

PurposeRecently I met up with an entrepreneur friend who has had her ups and downs since starting her business in Switzerland two years ago; but she continues to follow her dream. “Don’t ever give up, just keep pushing towards your goal. There will be a break through; you will see the signs and just head towards those little lights.” She is right about following her dream, but her passion is the energy that gives her the perseverance needed to reach her goals.

 

When I think of start-ups and the people who have managed to bring their ideas to fruition, I think of people who are passionate about their product, passionate about their clients and customers who will enjoy that product, and about their passion regarding their stakeholders who will also benefit from the product. These entrepreneurs are really excited about what they are doing; they really have a dream. Here are some of my ideas about passion and how to use it for your advantage when starting a business.

 

Be passionate about your product and know how it helps potential customers and clients, as well as stakeholders.

 

When writing your business plan, ask yourself if your product really speaks to you as someone who might be an investor or stakeholder. How excited are you about it, because if you are not energized, how are you going to get potential investors and stakeholders excited? How is this product special and why are you the one that is the best person to do it? Finally, an you tell someone about your product in a way that is clear and really gets that person excited, too? Can you create a buzz about it?

 

When the hard times come your passion will be your battery

 

Even with a passionate “elevator pitch”, there will be days where the “no” comes, maybe multiple times. The passion that you have about your product and how (and why) it is fantastic is your battery supply when you will have hard days. And take it for granted that there will be hard days. But what keeps the start-up entrepreneur going will be the energy found in the passion for the business idea, for the product. Use that energy for the hard days so that you have a surplus of energy when the ball gets rolling and the profits come in. Then that extra energy can be used for a new idea to move you upward and onward without too much extra energy wasted. You will be already moving instead of starting from zero.

 

Your passion might just be what separates you from all the others

 

Finally, in some cases, there may be others doing the same thing as you do. But your passion about your product might be the key to setting you apart from all the others. If you shine when it comes to passion and produce a great quality product, you will stand out, even if there are a hundred – or a thousand – doing just the same thing as you. You will find that people notice how you talk about what you do, and they will be happy to try your product. Your business idea doesn’t have to be very original to be passionate about it. I have a niece who owns her own bookkeeping company. She works hard and is very passionate, and proud, of her quality services to her clients. Because of this passion, and because she is very competent, she is excelling and business is booming. Passion is vital for a start-up.

Seeing and Believing: the reason for and the art of reframing your viewpoint

May 11th, 2015

 

“To reframe, then, means to change the conceptual and/or emotional setting or viewpoint in relation to which a situation is experienced and to place it in another frame which fits the ‘facts’ of the same concrete situation equally well or even better, and thereby changing its entire meaning.” – Watzlawick, Weakland and Fisch (1974)

One of the most important tasks of a coach is to help the client reflect on (false) assumptions, (limiting) beliefs, problems, and negative truths. In constructivist thought, every situation can be seen from different angles in a value-free way and thus a previously unknown solution is discovered because of that new insight. Reframing is done by asking questions.

The difference between reframing and just thinking positively is great, but yet nuanced. In positive thinking the person just thinks that the situation will be better because I tell myself, “I am + positive statement”. Whereas, reframing takes the situation and looks at it realistically, but in a different light. One of my favorite examples is the thorns on the roses: Yes, they prick my husband’s fingers, but they also prevent slugs from eating the leaves and flowers without having to consider slug poison.

Here are some more examples:

  • Since that went wrong, everything else will go wrong -> Although that was a failure, I can handle failures and continue, as I have had successes before and have the capacity for more success
  • I am not going to get another job because I’m too worried during interviews   -> Being worried means I will prepare more, practice a lot, visualize the situation and then snare the job
  • We are not running away from the problem -> We are moving towards a new and not yet discovered solution
  • I’m so unconfident -> I understand my limits and can move from there as a reflective person willing to learn new things
  • People don’t listen to me -> It’s too bad Joe does not appreciate my ideas, but yesterday Mark spent fifteen minutes listening to me while I gave suggestions
  • Fundraising makes me uncomfortable -> It is unfair to keep others from the opportunity of helping for the good of society
  • The future scares me -> The future is uncertain but it is likely to be promising
  • It can’t be done in time. -> What if we staged the deliver,y or got in extra help; then we could produce an acceptable product in the timeframe.
  • It seems stupid -> It’s also stupid not to look at the situation again and see what else can be done.
  • We can argue well -> Maybe this means we can also agree well, because we are so passionate.

 

What I like best about reframing is that it is working with the clients fundamental way of seeing and believing so that new solutions are found from within the person. It reminds me of one of my favorite childhood poems by Shel Sivertein:

 

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child. Listen to the don’ts. Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts. Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me… Anything can happen, child. Anything can be.”

One more lesson learned from the boys’ Bunny Business: The power of Passion

May 4th, 2015

Without passion, the likelihood of failure is great in any start-up.  My boys have a great passion for raising animals and for taking care of baby bunnies.  Their passion has kept them going when the situation gets rough. I, too, have a lot of passion when it comes to coaching.

Passionate coaching

My passion in coaching helps me to come to my job fresh every day.  It is the satisfaction in seeing people get beyond the “can’ts” to the “how tos” and then finally reaching the “Done! Wow!” stages of problem-solving.  I love helping people in start-ups, as that is a multi-faceted part of coaching; I love helping other people find more than “just” a job because life is more than 9-5 work; I love it when my clients can be excited about their job and find joy in it.  I love helping people find that next step in their career life, because they are then growing and challenging themselves to move on in life.  These kinds of activities make Monday mornings so much more enjoyable for me.

But how about you?

What gets you up in the morning?

Does your career path energize you?

What is your dream job?

What is that start-up brewing in your creative heart?

Of course, there is also a need for discipline in anything worth the while.

A business is a daily discipline.  The boys have to get up early to check on their animals, feed and water them twice a day, clean the cages weekly- or more when there are young ones, and perform regular maintenance on the cages and fence.  They must be perseverant with their to-do list.  It is my passion in coaching that gets me going to start that to-do list so that I then, at the end of the day, can feel satisfied in a job well done.  In some ways that satisfaction of checking things off the list then feeds into my passion so that I have even more energy and love to face tomorrow’s to-do list.

A job well done with an attitude of Love

Much of work is also attitude. The boys love their work, or at least most of it.  They especially love the animals and watching the young ones grow and develop.  But that love of the job can die.  I have a friend who has lost his love of his young business, due to complications, and he is unlikely to get his positive attitude back.  So my friend is thinking of selling his company and starting something new.  He is creative and will find a new passion, I am sure.  But it is hard when the love of the job dies.  The lack of love at my friend’s company makes it very hard for him to get out there and sell his product.  Without a love for the job, work becomes drudgery.  So, how can we possibly get that attitude of love back?  A change in perspective can help.

Reframing as part of regaining passion

Part of enjoying the job is determining how we are looking at the situation and at the tasks and by then asking ourselves whether our evaluation of the situation is correct. Are my assumptions correct? I can ask myself if this is an assumption that is true, or if my perception of the situation is skewed. How can I look at the situation differently?  For example, cleaning the rabbit cages is not seen as pleasant, but the rabbits living in the cages need clean cages for their health and well-being, especially since the weather has been rather rainy, so they don’t go out into the garden much at the moment.  More about reframing will be in the next blog.