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ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich



Effective managers are usually good readers. But maybe reading wasn’t a strong suit growing up, and despite the fact that you are doing well in your field, you always wanted to be a better reader. Your instincts are right. Better readers are more successful. It’s true, for a lot of reasons, but for one in particular — good readers have more information on which to make better judgments. It’s that simple.

But, how do you become a good reader? For years my children and others would pose the question to me. So, I began to consider the question more carefully. And while there are many “tools” that aid the goal of becoming a good reader, a few simple basics can make a big difference. Consider the strategies below, compiled over the years, among the tools that improve your odds at success … in anything you do — not least, reading.

#1 Determine what you want to know — First ask: Why am I reading this text? Is it with a purpose (in learning) or just for pleasure? What do I want to know after reading it? Once you know this, you can examine the text to see whether it is going to satisfy your goal.

An easy way of doing this is to look at the introduction and the chapter headings. The introduction should reveal the target audience and what the material seeks to achieve. Chapter headings provide an overall view of the structure of the subject.

Finally, ask whether the book meets your needs. Does it presume too much or too little knowledge (on the part of the reader)? If it doesn’t fit your need, find another.

#2 Determine how deeply to study the material
 — When you only need the shallowest knowledge of the subject, you can skim material. Read only chapter headings, introductions and summaries when this is your goal.

If you need a moderate level of information on a subject, scan the text. Here, you would read the chapter introductions and summaries in detail. You may then “speed read” the contents of chapters, selecting and understanding key words and concepts. Diagrams and graphs help at this level.

Only when you need detailed knowledge of a subject must you study the text. First skim the material to get an overview of the subject. This gives you an understanding of its structure, into which you can fit the detail gained from a full reading of the material. SQ3R is a good technique for getting a deep understanding of a text. This is the technique that follows a sequential method of examining any document, as outlined below.

Survey Survey the document: scan the contents, introduction, chapter introductions and chapter summaries to pick up a shallow overview of the text. Form an opinion of whether it will be of any help. If it does not give you the information you want, discard it.

Question — Make a note of any questions on the subject that come to mind, or particularly interest you following your survey. Even scan the document again to see if any stand out. These questions may be considered as study goals; understanding the answers can help structure the information in your own mind.

Read Now read the document. Read through useful sections in detail, taking care to understand all the points that are relevant. For some texts this reading may be very slow, especially when it contains a lot of dense and complicated information. While you are reading, it can help to take notes in “concept” or mind mapping format. (More on that next week)

Recall —
 Once you have read appropriate sections of the document, run through it in your mind several times. Isolate the core facts or the essential processes behind the subject and then see how other information fits around them.

Review — Once you have run through the exercise of recalling the information, you can move on to the stage of reviewing it. Reread the document, expand your notes, or discuss the material with colleagues. A particularly effective method of reviewing information is to teach it to someone else!

#3 Active Reading 
— When you are reading a document in detail, it often helps if you highlight, underline and annotate it as you go on. This emphasizes information in your mind, and helps you to review important points later. This also helps to keep your mind focused on the material and keeps it from wandering.

If active reading helps, you may want to photocopy information in more expensive texts, then read and mark the photocopies. If the benefit you get by active reading reasonably exceeds the value of the book, then the book is disposable, so don’t buy it.

#4 How to study different sorts of material
 — Different sorts of documents hold information in different places and in different ways. They have different depths and breadths of coverage. By understanding the layout of the material you are reading, you can extract useful information much more efficiently.

Reading Magazines and Newspapers These tend to give a very fragmented coverage of a topical area. They typically concentrate on the most interesting and glamorous parts of a topic. This helps to sell copies! They will often ignore less interesting information that may be essential to a full understanding of a subject. Typically areas of useful information are padded out with large amounts of irrelevant waffle or with advertising.

The most effective way of getting information from magazines is to scan the contents tables or indexes and turn directly to articles of interest. If you find an article useful, then cut it out and file it in a folder specifically covering that sort of information. In this way you will build up sets of related articles that may begin to explain the subject.

Newspapers tend to be arranged in sections. If you read a paper often, you can learn quickly which sections are useful and which ones you can skip altogether.

Reading Individual ArticlesArticles within newspapers and magazines tend to be of three main types:

News Articles — Here, the most important information is presented first; the information is generally less useful as the article progresses. News articles are designed to explain the key points first, followed by detail.

Opinion Pieces — Opinion articles present a point of view. Here, the most important information is contained in the introduction and the summary, with the middle of the article containing supporting arguments.

Features — These are written to provide entertainment or background on a subject. Typically the most important information is in the body of the text. If you know what you want from an article, and recognize its type, you can extract information from it quickly and efficiently.

#5 Reading “whole subject” documents
 — When you are reading an important document, it is easy to accept the writer’s structure of thought. This can mean that you may not notice that important information has been omitted or that irrelevant detail has been included. A good way of recognizing this is to compile your own table of contents before you open the document. You can then use this table of contents to read the document in the order that you want. You will be able to spot omissions quickly. This is why left margin subtitles with right margin text make easy reading of this kind of material.

Background This project developed out of a need for easy access to playground equipment as a way to encourage physical activity in secondary school children.

Basic Science & Philosophy Exertion leads to accomplishment. Things not ventured are not gained. The natural urge to accomplish and fit in is more easily satisfied with simple exercise and equipment. Not everyone is a natural athlete, but most find acceptable levels of athleticism when exercise is cooperative and fun, such as pushing a merry-go-round and jumping on to join others in the accomplishment.

#6 Using glossaries with technical documents
 — If you are reading large amounts of difficult technical material, it may be useful to photocopy or compile a glossary. Keep this beside you as you read. It will probably also be useful to note down the key concepts in your own words and refer to them when necessary, again using “concept” mapping — a good study method for students.

Whatever your need or desire for reading, good readers are made, not born. Give it a try. If you do, I’m betting that you’ll be reading more success in your tealeaves.

October 26, 2018 |

User Genius


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich



America is the innovator nation. So, the logic follows that Americans, of all walks, are innovators too. This doesn’t mean to suggest that innovators aren’t born elsewhere (35% of American innovations come from immigrants), but that the ambition in Americans (“Anyone can be president of the United States”) is apparent and real. In fact, American innovation was born in Europe, as the golden age of invention ranged from the mid 1800s to the early 1900s.

The human condition is naturally creative, so this means that we Americans (as others) naturally incline toward problem-solving, or finding a better way. It is, perhaps, the reason Apple products have had such success. They are innovative, and appeal to the WPC (wicked, pisser, cool) character in them. Unique design, form over function (opposite conventional wisdom — an innovation in itself), packaging, and creative marketing that moves the Wow meter, are among its characteristic appeal.

Not coincidentally, most innovations come from users of products and services, otherwise known as “customers.” The traditional approach to the customer is to divine what he/she needs or wants. Sometimes, we go as far as to actually look at what he/she is “in the habit of buying.”

“Everyone has a refrigerator; let’s make those, only better.” Ever run out of freezer space? If so, take a look at a new model from Samsung that repurposes any of its four food cabinets as a fridge or a freezer. When you need more freezer room, just move the milk and …, to the left, then repurpose the fridge as a freezer. I’d say that passes the WPC test.

But there is more to the customer than meets the eye. Not least, it’s the stuff of innovation. Most innovations (unique products, services, and applications) are called user innovations. They are called this because the developer expects to benefit by the use of them. So-called beta tests are meant to test the market for new things … to see if they work, gain use by their uniqueness, refinement, or additional marketing to turn “wants” into “needs.” Do most really “need” a cell phone? Data use of mobile devices far outpaces the use of them as phones. Reading, researching, and just keeping up with others and what’s happening, are largely accomplished using data services. Think your “hip cricket” is an absolute necessity? Note that anxiety therapy often includes separation from this modern “ball and chain.”

Most users are innovators at some level. We have all found ourselves saying something like: “They ought to make those gas caps with quick-release mechanisms to avoid getting gas on your hands and to get through the dirty job of pumping it quicker.” Voila!

It’s the way we are — creative beings. That sense in us, not coincidentally, is what informs our buying decisions, what makes us the consumers we’ve come to be. We either like the way something is made, or its ability to solve a problem, satisfy a need, add value, or we don’t.

A manufacturer innovation, on the other hand, is one in which the developer expects to benefit by selling it. In the traditional, manufacturer-centered innovation model, the manufacturer identifies user needs (what he believes), develops products at his expense, and profits by protecting and selling them. It’s the model that first comes to mind, but not the one that produces most innovations. Though it may benefit from demographic and psychographic modeling, it is not the prodigious creativity that obtains from actual use by a user. In this model the user is measuring three very important drivers, though often taken for granted by him/her — how to identify, access, and use, products and services under circumstances that are dynamic in nature. Today, you don’t need a new refrigerator. Tomorrow, yours breaks down, and everything changes.

The model responsible for most innovations is the user-centered innovation paradigm, or “democratized” model.

Back to the Future

If customers are innovators, then does it follow that no matter how many of some kind of something there is on the market there is room for something new and exciting? For some the answer is a definite NO! Henry Ford is known to have quipped: “Who needs another kind of auto? You can have any kind you want from Ford Motor Company, and in any color, so long as it’s black.”

Back then, he was right. That is, until new models from others came along and the basic black for $400 wasn’t everyone’s preference for how to get around.

For others, the answer is a definite YES! Apple, Inc. is the latest and greatest example of product innovation. But where do their products come from? Who would have guessed that the MP3 player, then struggling to displace portable CD players, would find market traction in a reincarnated form by an alien name? All would agree that the iPod, its fundamental workings much the same as MP3s already on the market, would tickle the fancy of music lovers the world over. Truth be told, it was more than unique design that sold the iPod; the product came with a music store and solved a copyright music nightmare by selling, of all things — singles!

Users have custom needs that when satisfied by an existing product are most convenient. It’s what makes consumers of us. The job of the manufacturer, then, is to package, attractively price, make readily available, and improve the product. In software, we call that “upgrades.” Generations of products reflect this process of improvement.

When not satisfied, custom needs often turn into products. We know from our study of the “Use Model” that the greatest competition facing products is the alternative use of the same resources. Customers always find the solution they seek, either an “adequate” product or service already in existence, or one they create. This is called “proximal alternatives.” That is, when we need to drive a nail into a wall, and a hammer is not available, we might use the end of the screwdriver that’s handy or the heel of a shoe. Such solutions are called proximal alternatives, and when found, often become the choice of habit — a key element in the consumer’s makeup. The resultant product might be a hammer that is also a screwdriver when needed. Auto key chains often contain high-intensity mini flashlights, arising out of a “custom need” for an additional, and often, vital function. Many “Aunties” join the family circle because their proximity as neighbors and friends make convenient the use of them as alternative parents. This common occurrence is proximal parenting.

Users, it appears, are responsible for more product innovation than any other groups, including designers and manufacturers. Bet I can guess the question in your mind — “Why don’t we ask ‘users’ what they are using to solve their problems, satisfy their needs?”

Studies show that consumers are not very vocal about the things they need. Oh, they complain a lot, but that may be more a cultural bias than a clear indication of the solution on their minds. You know how it is in the conference room. Those that complain: “it won’t work,” are usually not equipped with the solution that “will work.” Similarly, 97 percent of customers won’t tell you of their dissatisfaction. Of those that do, 90 percent will not say what’s at the root of it. Restaurant owners know this reality well. When diners don’t like the food or some other characteristic of their offerings, they find another place to eat.

We can conclude, then, that it’s important to look into the mind of the consumer, and not just the voice of the consumer. This is what Eric von Hippel of MIT discovered many years ago, and which informed his Lead User Model of innovation. Take a look at the list of products below — all user innovations.

                                   Gatorade                                               Spreadsheet SW

                                   Protein Shampoo                                Feminine Hygiene

                                  Mountain Bike                                     Climbing Piton

                                  Sports Bra                                             White-Out Liquid

                                  Graham Cracker Crust                       Chocolate Milk

                                  e-mail                                                    Desktop Publishing


October 19, 2018 |

Group Decision-Making


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich




Making decisions within a group can often be challenging. When things go well, they can go very well. However, when things go wrong, groups can end up mired in conflict. Some group members may fight for recognition and position, others may be over-critical or disruptive, while still others may sit quietly and not contribute anything to the overall effort. Because of this, groups can often spin out of control and make poor decisions, suggesting that decisions by individuals working on their own is a better approach.

When this happens, it’s easy to see why some throw up their hands in frustration and give up. But when a group works in effective ways, it really works. Groups that function effectively together can outperform individuals and make much better decisions.

But how do you make your group effective? How do you get all members to contribute and inspire one another to great ideas and solutions? One way is to “prepare” the group for success. This is a “tried and true” method, and is applied across the board in most decision-making. Good preparation makes good practice, and good results.

  • Set an agenda that requires interaction. Ask group members to speak of their experience with the meeting topic and how it might contribute to an understanding of the issues and the expected outcomes. Alerting them to the interactive exercise ahead will stir their creative juices.
  • Assemble those who would carry the initiative forward — that is, those who have both the skills and the inclination to contribute to the venture going forward. You’ll begin to see the workings of the team you’ve assembled and form a view of the cohesiveness of the group and any missing links.
  • Ask group members to recommend the talents of those in the room for assignment. Each ought to be given the opportunity to elucidate the special talents of group members. This prepares people for the selfless dedication to the other’s success that best informs teamwork.

The Stepladder Technique

The Stepladder Technique is another useful method for encouraging individual participation in “group decision-making.” This simple tool manages how members enter the decision-making group. It encourages all members to contribute on an individual level before being influenced by others. It results in a wider variety of ideas, prevents people from “hiding” within the group, and it helps people avoid being “stepped on” or overpowered by stronger, louder group members.

How to Use the Tool

The Stepladder Technique has five basic steps:

Step 1: Before getting together as a group, present the task or problem to all members. Give everyone sufficient time to think about what needs to be done and to form their own opinions on how to best accomplish the task or solve the problem.

Step 2: Form a core group of two members. Have them discuss the problem.

Step 3: Add a third group member to the core group. The third member presents ideas to the first two members BEFORE hearing the ideas that have already been discussed. After all three members have laid out their solutions and ideas, they discuss their options together.

Step 4: Repeat the same process by adding a fourth member, and so on, to the group. Allow time for discussion after each additional member has presented his or her ideas.

Step 5: Reach a final decision only after all members have been brought in and presented their ideas.

The Stepladder Technique is similar to the Delphi Method, another tool that’s often used in groups to prevent Groupthink* and to encourage participation. While both tools have the same objective, they differ in a few key ways:

  • In the Delphi Method, an objective facilitator or leader manages the group. In the Stepladder Technique, all members are equal.
  • The Delphi Method keeps members anonymous. The facilitator manages the flow of information, and members may have no idea who else is in the group. The Stepladder Technique involves face-to-face meetings, so everyone knows who the other members are.
  • The Delphi Method is a lengthy process, while the Stepladder Technique is much quicker.
  • The Delphi Method is often used for major decisions that need input from a large number of people. The Stepladder Technique works best with smaller groups that make a wide range of decisions.

Some groups can begin to lose their effectiveness and ability to make quality decisions if they have too many members. Keep your group small — four to six team members — to maximize effectiveness.

The Stepladder Technique is a step-by-step approach to help ensure that all members of a group participate and are heard. The technique allows shy, quiet people to present their ideas before other group members can influence them, and it allows everyone to hear many different viewpoints before reaching a final decision. All of this helps the group make better decisions. The techniques help curb worker ferment and eliminate fainéant members who fear engagement.


*Groupthink is a phenomenon that occurs when the desire for group consensus overrides people’s commonsense desire to present alternatives, critique a position, or express an unpopular opinion. This is what happens in the legislatures of most nations, where the unique view of parties divides people in the decision-making process into membership of a common view.

October 12, 2018 |

Planning for Achievement


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich


Every day most of us go to work. We do so with the expectation that what awaits us is familiar and within our ability to accomplish. The usual preparation notwithstanding, some of us keep a schedule of “continuing education” to ensure the competency we might otherwise take for granted. Apart from professionals, most of us find our own path to CE, either by personal study, structured programs, or by the hand of a coach. In effect, CE and other improvement efforts are forms of preparation; the very thing—combined with opportunity—that spells success. Common among all approaches is that we see opportunity in the exercise. I regularly read books, view CDs, and attend online seminars to achieve the same result, but whatever form it takes the 5 “Ps” hold up as well today as ever. Prior Planning Prevents Poor Performance.

Recently, I took such an opportunity at an Association meeting my wife and I attended. The main purpose of the two-day session was to prepare a strategic plan of sorts, and for this the association hired a professional management consultant to facilitate the process. I met him the night before the planning session was to begin. The more we spoke the clearer it became (at least in my view) that Andy had all of the right principles firmly in place, and that the collaborative results of the ensuing sessions would bear fruit. Andy Hoh was doing it right, and I was encouraged that the association members gathered would be in good hands over the next two days.

A strategic plan is usually not something you can accomplish in just a couple of days. Few of us are capable of pulling together the thoughts that inform a realistic view of the future in the short span of a day or two. The competition, internal and market initiatives, resource development, and technology forecasting, to name a few, can be complex issues to plan. Consensus, which must follow, is not always a given under the circumstances.

I took the opportunity to join the group for a short segment of the sessions, having already reviewed what had gone before it with my wife. It was a good learning experience. Not only was Andy a capable facilitator, he was equipped with the knowledge of best practices, and a style that transferred it easily. Taking the opportunity to “check” the competition proved to be as valuable as I had hoped it would be.

Andy began by asking board members to visualize their future. It’s no surprise to discover the opportunity in our future when we take the time to consider it. You’ll see the same advice from Jack and Suzie Welch in their weekly column: “Start with a clear purpose and vision in mind.” A mission statement resulted. Next, he asked the most fundamental of all questions: “What do we want to accomplish more than anything else?” It’s the right stuff. It’s hard to know how to get somewhere if we don’t know where we’re going. As Andy listened to responses, he wrote them down on a flip chart and organized them on the walls of the room for easy reference. Why? Because “what’s not on paper turns to vapor.”

Andy moved quickly through the process, ever sensitive to the need to do “real work” and in the time allotted. Another honored principle was revealed—to do what you can, with what you’ve got, in the time you have—and gave needed perspective to the process. Right again! When Andy moved the discussion to goals he was careful to encourage specificity, measurability, attainability, realism, and targeted output. Few goals without these guidelines end in the desired results.

Organizational strengths and weaknesses were next, the stuff of opportunity. Without problem identity there can be no solution. We cannot solve a problem that doesn’t exist. Root cause analysis followed in an effort to avoid a cursory view of the opportunities for the association. Symptomatic failure is the number one reason for not achieving one’s goals. When we see blue lips on a friend it’s fair to conclude that he is oxygen deprived. The same holds true for organizations. Without a careful analysis of the symptom (problem) we often throw good money after bad. Too many organizations are starving for oxygen.

After the strategies were in place it was time to put together an outline of the action plans for each of the strategic initiatives put forth by the team, a critical element of which is team building. This was a loosely constructed group of volunteers, not people with clear ties to an accountability system. It was necessary for Andy to do two things at this point: emphasize ownership of the goals and their outcomes, and encourage a spirit of teamwork that positioned team members’ success above their own. This may be the most significant accomplishment of any group effort because the yoking of determinant minds is like going against the goads.

Responsibility for tasks within each of the strategic initiatives was assigned, and the group concluded with an enthusiasm for the desired outcomes that I thought might not be impossible to achieve under the circumstances. They agreed to keep short accounts of progress in each area of development, and established a review and reporting mechanism to do so. On the way home my wife continued the discussions of the two days, reviewing for me the process and excitement in the opportunity to realize the mission of the association—unity and prosperity for all members.

Andy had done his job well. He had prepared the group to do the thinking and the doing of strategic planning. What an interesting idea—think about the future by looking at how we got to the present, then project a better future. I think we can all take a lesson from this story of planning for achievement.

October 8, 2018 |



ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich



Perhaps more than anything else people are occupied with their self-image. Effectively, the self-image is a reflection of what we think others think we think of ourselves. It’s the mental picture of the way we wish to be perceived—in the main, our appearance.

The technical term used by behavioral psychology is self-schema, and it means to collectively represent the experiences and influences on us that form the self-image. As one might guess, humans rely heavily on a view of their self-image for achievement. When it is positive we are more likely to carry a spirited view of people and things. When negative we find the route to self-loathing and the second-guessing and self-deprecation that usually follows. In short, we lose our sense of value.

Not coincidentally, the marketplace operates in much the same way. There is an inside view and an outside view, and combined they work to define our potential for success. The inside view of our organizations, not unlike the self-image that considers such things as personality, attitude, sense of humor, accomplishments, and societal position, is a measure of its skills, expertise, style, and ability to satisfy needs—what makes it good in the eyes of the customer. Ultimately, both operate from the same encoding—we make promises about ourselves that are measured by our ability to deliver on them. When organizations deliver on their promises their capital rises. Effectively, they become more valuable to customers (than for their products alone), and distinguishable as such.

The important math in this equation is that both inside and outside realities match up. Most organizations want to believe they are unusually gifted at one or more aspects of serving the customer. General Electric says “We bring good things to life.” Exxon Mobil says that they are “Taking on the world’s toughest energy challenges.” Avis says “We try harder,” and another company says, “You’re in good hands with Allstate.” All are promises from organizations with an inside reality they would like to believe is equal to the outside perception of them.

In the final scene of this market drama everything trades on value, which itself depends wholly on an outside reality. Simply, does the customer see value in your offering—product, service, attitude, citizenship, excitement, solutions ability, etc.? If this is also what you’re “selling,” you are likely to cause a conversion in the marketplace—that is, a sale and a relationship. Clearly, organizations cannot successfully sell what they do not have. Sadly, too many do. Why? Because they have not understood or measured the outside perception against its inside reality.

Too often, organizations prepare an image of themselves from their desires and not from their demonstrated ability. So common is this disconnect that most organizations fail to achieve their stated goals. They are either afraid to check the market for its view of them, or too arrogant to consider it necessary. Both are forms of denial and lead to self-destruction, a self-image even more frightening than the view of them by customers.

A simple behavioral model

We are on the firmest footing when we have learned to confront issues—early and straight on. It’s the simplest of behavioral models. Organizations, by definition, confer both the right and the responsibility to do so. It makes little sense to invest mightily in an imagined outcome without checking its potential for success. When we do, we usually get an answer we like, but absent any sense that it is the right answer. We must be able to impute predictability to every initiative we take. It may be as fundamental as a commitment “to do our very best” in the pursuit of it. But planned outcomes must endow both an inside reality that is matched by an outside reality. Called market confirmation, it is necessary in the equation that matches what we sell with what the customer wants, needs, or is in the habit of buying.

As we approach this market grail, it is useful to engage a communications effort that combines science with the art of the “sell.” As the saying goes: “If you want to know why John Smith buys what John Smith buys, you’ve got to see the world through John Smith’s eyes.” And that may take a little persuading, so crank up the marketing machinery and keep these few things in mind:

  • You must cause an interrupt. That is, you must get the customer’s attention. There is so much competition for the attention of customers it is vital that you discover effective ways to accomplish it.
  • You must facilitate the decision-making process. Uniquely qualify your value proposition, such as guaranteeing the “lowest price” or “same-day delivery.” If the customer is caused to qualify you in his decision-making you have failed to facilitate the process.
  • Finally, you must reduce the risk of making a buying decision. An “unconditional satisfaction” guarantee will usually do it. This is the opposite of: NO REFUNDS, STORE CREDIT ONLY. Half the buying public will not buy from organizations with this policy.

We are never more bereft of resources than when we presume the mere “setting up shop” guarantees customers. Knowing what the customer wants is the key to forming an inside reality with market value.

September 27, 2018 |

Beyond Your Mean!


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich



Few of us would accept that we are average, even though in polite company we might incline the lesser state. The linguistic artifice costs us little. But less is no achievement for most, so when our “roles” performance is at issue—worker, parent, friend, sibling—“average” is anything but how we wish to be seen. In fact, our tender psyche relies so heavily on the self-image—how we think others think we see ourselves—that less in the eyes of others often brings out the defensive in us.

Here, we are not talking about the “meaning” in the turn-of-phrase that ends in “s,” as in living beyond your means. That is mere “Kentucky Windage” in the aim to consider the “pitch” in our approach to the workplace and its essential role in performance improvement. Here, pitch is defined as the level of intensity, or the highness or lowness of something. In this vein, “mean,” the measure of value in a set or collection of elements classed together, is manifest in how we dispatch ourselves in the workplace. Simply, we are propelled in a sense, by the heart, mind, body, and soul in our work, and by this “set” of elements form the model of achievement that is uniquely ours.

The heart in our effort is more commonly our attitude, that element of intangible behavior that either tilts us forward or holds us back. We are most often considered for our skills, even evaluated for advancement based on “what” we can do. But what we know compared to what we do not know is so wide a gap that the measure of the latter surrounds us. Skills matter, but attitude—good and bad—is the primary reason for performance success. We might tolerate a poor attitude in some, in favor of unusual skills in them, but we seldom choose to align ourselves with them. Given the choice between the dour and the dirigible that floats on air, we seek the latter.

The mind in the holistic view is the element that enables a person to be aware of the world and his experiences, to think, and to feel, the faculty of consciousness and thought. When used more fully it goes beyond the mere intellect that facilitates learning. It is a rainbow spectrum of awareness that can manage both the simplest of things and the complex as easily. It is less the “shift register” in a computer, that stores data for rationalizing at each clock cycle; it is rather the determiner of all function, the thinking and doing planner that causes things to happen.

The body is bidder of all things. It is the toolbox at our disposal. We conceive an action in the mind, prepare our emotional and mental state in the heart, and set the body to work. It moves us from place to place, drives the car; it picks and places things, and even works to recondition itself for those who put it to exercise. It can take the form of love or war, revealing passion and vehemence. Without the “body” we might only think and feel, but never touch, taste, hear, or see color.

The soul in the context of the workplace is the purpose in our effort, as tied to our identity. We may think our purpose in words and images, and craft our identity in some measure of performance, but combined they present the meaning in what we do. The soul in our work drives us to fulfillment, that highest of needs that is the end in all endeavors. Our contributions are made ready by heart, mind, and body, but it is the soul in our work that uniquely qualifies us.

If I have your attention after this brief journey through the “looking glass” may I ask you the question above? Are you working “beyond your mean”? And, if not, why not?

The workplace is assumedly competitive, even more so today. How then might one distinguish himself among eager others? It may be that we only do what we know how to do. The sound of it is a death knell to achievement. Clearly, we must go beyond our “mean,” that average performance that makes lemmings of us too easily. But without the collective movement of our faculties we are fated to crawl while others dance. Somehow, we must find it in ourselves to go beyond our education, where in the words of Albert Einstein “learning begins.”

The heart, mind, body, and soul may be a good place to start. It slows the spirit and concentrates our efforts on real work, progress. In the end, we’ll have avoided Alice’s dilemma, having moved so fast only to find ourselves in the same place.


September 20, 2018 |

Adult Supervision


ROI by Frank J. Rich







By Frank J. Rich


Efforts to inform organizations of “authentic leadership” play variously well across the marketplace. Some, schooled in the principles and practices of leadership, are enamored of the process of learning more about it and warm to the opportunity. Others “show up” because they’re told to do so, or believe it’ll be bad for them if they don’t. It’s a common scene, whether on the speaking circuit or inside the bowels of an organization — some follow their beliefs, others their noses.

The principle in this discussion (I’m trusting that some of you are “believers”) is “oversight”— that elusive but necessary part of all endeavor that underlies the system of accountability necessary to achievement. “Accountability” may be defined as responsible to someone for something. Its meaning forms other words and ideas, depending on your “experience and understanding”— that vital repository behaviorists call the unconscious mind. But, whatever your sense of the word, a system of accountability must be in place before we can begin the process of achievement — before we can apply the principle of oversight.

Each of us is subject to authority — a decision (or pattern) that confirms the desire or habit that reveals it. If we believe in what we’re doing — building companies, citizens, or communities — we can readily identify the hierarchy around us. A belief in something, or someone, requires trust, that niggling urge in us that measures our cautionary response. We will cross through that amber light or we won’t, depending on the measure of trust in our ability to make it through unscathed. We will follow the mission and vision of the organization we have “chosen” to join, again, by the measure of trust we place in them or ourselves. This last decision has an interesting sidebar that also measures the character of our approach — either outside/inside or inside/outside. You can muddle over that or write to further the discussion.

One more ingredient in this recipe for achievement is agreement. We must have it before we can form expectations of an organization or another, indeed, ourselves. Without it we are asking of others more than we have the right to. So, there you have it. We must believe to achieve. We must trust to believe. We must form agreement to define the thing/person we will trust. And we must have that agreement in place before we can be held accountable, before we can exercise oversight of the things that define achievement.

I admit to borrowing the title of this column from a Sarah Palin speech to Alaska legislators after her installation as Governor. She told them: “All of you here need some adult supervision.”

In simple terms that’s what accountability is — the oversight given authority by the agreement between people and organizations and people and people, to achieve some common end. But in the march to achievement most efforts break down. Why? The question has been impetus to hundreds of books and articles by the studied in fields as different as psychology and nutrition. Simply, we all need supervision — ­or, as is said in publishing: “every writer needs an editor.”

Unfortunately, we are uncomfortable accepting it, and generally won’t from those we don’t trust. And, we are too often petulant in the belief that guidance means we are not doing our jobs. It often goes like this:

Don, how are you doing with the things we agreed are necessary to growing an understanding of the business in order to satisfy the goals of your department? You know, understanding what the market is doing, how the customer behaves under circumstances, and the technology that informs efficiency.

Don typically replies: Are you saying that I’m not doing my job?

Self-esteem aside, we are so often managing a fragile psyche that we fail to adhere to the principles above that most could recite with ease. Oversight is not only necessary, but is also an opportunity to form the bonds of trust that effective communications provide. The more you talk with others, the better you are at relating to them on a variety of levels. Coupled with a full-disclosure approach, we are better able to assuage hurt feelings, confront issues of conflict, learn the styles and personal goals of others, as well as the cultural underpinnings of unique organizations. Oversight is involvement, not “micro managing.” It is the very essence of relationship in an execution culture.

I’ve heard candidates Obama and Clinton scold Congress for poor decision-making, each making the point that our government is constitutionally bound to operate “for,” “by,” and “of” the people —oversight! They were right in suggesting that the organization they work in has a dysfunctional nature, and that the people of the U.S. are the landlords of this nation — indeed, the overseers of its “doings.”

The principles are clear; perhaps, even next steps. But your part in oversight is needed. Which will you do — accept or provide it? Little else works!

September 13, 2018 |
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