The Outsider Perspective

Sometimes we gravitate towards people who are similar to us, or have had similar experience.

They have “walked in our shoes” and we assume they understand us, our issues, and our struggles.

This gravitational pull becomes stronger during training or workshops when you ask people to break into small groups. The same industries, positions, and titles want to talk to others with similar positions in similar industries with similar titles.

To disrupt this tendency during a recent day-long workshop on Coaching, we encouraged each person to find someone radically different from their industry, position, or title. These pairs would practice coaching each other through a current struggle or challenge.

After a few awkward moments, the partners found each other and began to coach each other through the framework we provided. We emphasized that the right coaching framework allows you to help others despite not being a subject-matter expert in their field. (The beauty and the risk of interactive training is you get to see first-hand whether or not your ideas and concepts really work. Sometimes you brace yourself for potential failure.)

We were about to see this coaching concept tested with one particular pair that were so radically different (law enforcement and water treatment) that we paid close attention to their progress.

During the debrief, we heard from those being coached, and the practicing coaches.

We waited to hear from our radically different pair.

“You know, I was a little hesitant at first. I thought, how could they know anything about what I do? But it was the Outsider Perspective that made me look at this in a way I never considered.”

The Outsider Perspective isn’t immersed in our world, so they ask hard questions (they don’t know what they are not supposed to ask).

The Outsider Perspective isn’t bound by our perceived limitations, so they offer insight into potential solutions.

The Outsider Perspective is looking at your issue, problem or challenge with a fresh point of view.

The Outsider Perspective can challenge your assumptions and your bias.

The Outsider Perspective may be exactly what we need.

 

A Changed Mind

It started out like any other goal setting session. One person was a little late. When they arrived, there was instant credibility as they entered the room. They took their seat at the head of the table.

Head of the Table.

Introductions. Head of the Table had done just about everything. They were in their mid to late 80s, held prestigious positions, made a difference, and created things. Decades of life and success.

Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success.

The goal setting and strategic vision session began. Before too long, Head of the Table (before it was time) stated a clear and specific goal that set the stage. The goal was bold, big, and a little disruptive. You could see the goal pass through the group like a wave.

Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success. Goal shared first, Setting the Stage.

The discussion keep moving and started to flow. There were other voices, other perspectives, other ideas. As the day progressed, there were more voices, more perspectives, more ideas.

Head of the Table. Decades of Life and Success. Goal shared first, Setting the Stage. Other Perspectives, other Ideas.

Then something happened. There was a shift. Head of the Table made another bold move, yet another surprise. Head of the Table announced that after hearing the other perspectives and the other viewpoints, their original idea was not as good, not as applicable, and not what the organization needed. They had a changed mind.

A Changed Mind.

The room energy got an immediate boost. Some of the more timid and less experienced participants (who had introduced the different ideas and perspectives) found their voice. Those voices began to participate with a new-found confidence as they felt able to share their vision of the new, the different, the better.

A Changed Mind. People finding their Voice.

As the day moved towards conclusion, the goals, the vision, and the plan started to take shape. Building a plan was not the exclusive thing built that day. Excitement was building for the new future and direction of the organization.

A Changed Mind. People finding their Voice. Building Excitement for the Future and Direction.

Thank you Head of the Table for leading the way, for staying engaged and active over so many decades, and for demonstrating to all of us the power, and impact of a Changed Mind.

The Spillover of Failure

It was a privilege last week to work with a group of people trying to launch big, scary & creative ideas into the world.

They have ideas.

They want to make a difference.

They brought their big, scary & creative ideas.

We discussed what can get in the way of ideas: their style, organizational resistance and culture, and fear.

We spent some time on fear.

“What are you afraid of?”

The group had many answers, most had to do with the fear of failure.

We pushed them a little more.

“What are you really afraid of? Go a little deeper.”

A new answer emerged, and was met with silence and affirming nods.

“It is not just the fear of failure that is bothering me. What I am really afraid of is the spillover of failure that may cause people to question all of the great things I am already doing through the lens of this failure.”

The spillover of failure.

One failure tainting all the other great things we are doing.

One failure causing others to question us or question our other great work.

How many times does the spillover of failure fear prevent us from launching new ideas?

What big, scary & creative ideas would you bring into this world if the spillover of failure wasn’t in play?

What does it take to create an environment where failure is celebrated instead of feared?

We need your big, scary & creative ideas.

Don’t let the spillover of failure stop you.

Below is a great TED talk with some great reasons why to celebrate failure.

P.S. This is post #299. I wonder what big, scary & creative idea #300 will bring?

#Worthless

When you work with people and companies, you hear a lot of stories.

Some stories leave you a little speechless.

They are young, talented, and are always working. I don’t mean they work a lot, I mean they are always working: weekends, nights, and vacations.

They feel a little overlooked.

They give their all, making personal sacrifices, and not getting any relief.

No real promotions, no real raises, no additional help.

They receive an increased pace, increased workload, and increased hours.

One day they are called into the leader’s office. They are told that the company sees them, and wants to invest in them. They have a future.

Hope returns.

They work harder, more hours, and more projects.

They are working on a particular project that takes a lot of time, energy, and focus.

They need to get this right.

They return to the leader’s office.

They make a case for more time, help, and assistance.

No additional assistance is given.

No investment is made in them, just a simple statement.

“You know, none of this matters anyway. No one reads this stuff.”

Worthless.

They have been told and reminded of their value.

All the hours.

All the time.

All the sacrifices.

Worthless.

It should come as no surprise, that this company is struggling with high turn-over and a toxic culture.

Ironically they are trying so hard to bring value to those outside of the company, that they forgot about the value on the inside.

What message are you sending?

Do your people feel valued or Worthless?

Does your company have a high turn-over rate? Are you driving hard for results and forgetting something along the way? Does your culture promote appreciation and value, or do people feel Worthless?

If you or your company are struggling with conveying value, contact me today.

Let’s send a better message.

Permission

I have been wrestling with how to close out a project that has been consuming my mind, energy, and emotions. The project is a risk, and includes trying to help others launch their big ideas into the world.

I have learned a few things along the way.

Taking risks is hard.

Launching ideas is scary.

Fear of failing is paralyzing.

But.

We move forward despite the resistance.

We will have doubts during the entire journey.

We will feel stuck, get stuck, and periodically wiggle free.

So.

What do you do when you are at the end of a project?

How do you end one journey and make sure it closes out correctly?

How do we move from one project to the next?

I was recently talking to a close friend and they offered a great word.

Permission.

And not just any Permission.

Two specific areas of Permission.

Permission to Rest.

Permission to Celebrate.

Permission to Rest – to acknowledge that your efforts and energy that you put into this project will require recharging afterwards and to make space and allow yourself to rest without feeling guilty, lazy, or worthless.

Permission to Celebrate – to acknowledge that you did something, created something, and made something happen, and to give yourself some credit even if it wasn’t perfect or exactly what you had hoped.

Permission to both Rest and Celebrate is difficult.

We are so “busy” that natural Rest feels like we are doing something wrong.

We are so critical and/or trying to be humble that to Celebrate feels wrong as well.

Maybe all projects should end with Permission.

Go ahead and give yourself the Permission to Rest and Celebrate.

And just in case that is hard to do, we give you Permission for both.

New Ideas

There is a problem with trying to bring new ideas into the World.

The problem is the resistance.

The resistance tries to wear you down, so you will stop trying.

At first glance you may think that the resistance is only on the outside.

Systems.

Organizations.

Power.

Resources.

Surprisingly the biggest resistance may not be outside at all.

There is a group on the inside trying to stop you.

The resistance committee of fear, failure, shame, and pessimism do a fine job of wearing you down, and shutting down the new ideas.

The resistance committee wants to keep you isolated.

The resistance committee wants you to think that your new ideas are stupid, silly, and will never be welcomed.

The resistance committee wants to convince you that the World will never embrace you and your new ideas.

But the resistance committee is wrong.

The World is waiting to embrace you and your idea.

The World has Systems that will help you get off the ground.

The World has Organizations that need your new ideas.

The World has Power to move things forward and Power to share.

The World has Resources to invest in you and your new ideas.

Don’t let the resistance committee keep you isolated.

Don’t let the resistance committee convince you that the World is the enemy.

You have new ideas.

The World needs new ideas.

The World needs you.

Rocks in the Canoe

(Image Courtesy of Imagekind)

We either build or inherit organizations. Either we started it from scratch, or we came into the organization once formed.

The organization is intended to move forward, presumably in an efficient, smooth, and relatively safe way: Like a Canoe. (Work with me here.)

You want your Canoe (organization) to get to the destination with ease of effort and maybe even enjoyment along the way.

You are trying to paddle your Canoe forward.

You are probably good at watching for rocks outside of your Canoe.

But there is a problem.

There is resistance.

Things are sluggish.

Instead of focusing outside, you look inside.

There are Rocks in the Canoe.

Some Rocks in the Canoe are employees who are not buying into the change of direction, strategy, or approach.

Some Rocks in the Canoe are rules and procedures that are working against your customers.

Some Rocks in the Canoe are having the wrong people doing the wrong jobs.

Some Rocks in the Canoe are distractions and procrastinations that move us away from our goals.

You didn’t notice it at first. Slowly those Rocks in the Canoe began to add up.

Maybe you have been spending so much time focusing on avoiding the rocks in the river, that you failed to notice the Rocks in the Canoe.

Your Canoe is heavy and weighed down.

Your Canoe is slow and sluggish.

Your Canoe is hovering dangerously close to the waterline.

Can you see the Rocks in the Canoe now?

The Rocks in the Canoe didn’t get there all at once. Some rocks started as pebbles, and seemed to grow over time. Some rocks were there when you first got into your Canoe, and you may not have noticed.

The Rocks in the Canoe need to go.

But, your Canoe may not respond well to quick motion and disruption.

Your Canoe may be a little wobbly.

It is important to keep your balance and not overturn or sink while removing the Rocks in the Canoe.

If you stand up and immediately start throwing rocks, you may tip over or crash.

Maybe we can learn from how the Rocks in the Canoe got there in the first place.

The rocks didn’t show up all at once, and our job is the methodically remove the Rocks in the Canoe.

Imagine what your Canoe could do if it wasn’t so weighed down.

P.S. Don’t be afraid of your competition picking up your rocks. If they want to put your rocks in their Canoe, let them. As you are moving quickly forward, they may be slowing down and not even realizing the cause.