January 2012

What Time Is It When An Elephant Sits On Your Fence?

Jan 13 2012
By: Doron York
Categories: Coaching Talk
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Okay, it’s an old joke that has been around for longer than both of us. If you are one of the few who have never heard it before, the answer is “Time to get a new fence”.

But, what does the joke have to do with this briefing?

When I heard the joke for the thousandth time repeated by my nephew the other day, I got to thinking that it really was a great analogy for our lives today. I know you may be thinking that I have gone and lost my mind, however stick with me for a moment

Think of yourself as the fence. You stand rigid, the guardian of all things inside your company. You are the protector, the leader, the financial manager and the keeper of all things valuable. You decide what internal influences require attention and what external influences you will allow inside.

You believe that you are a fence made of sturdy construction and able to weather any storm or turbulence, when along comes the elephant who decides that after an exhausting day, to take a short rest, right smack on the middle of your weakest point.

Alright, now let’s move past the picture in your head. Sorry about that. The elephant represents today’s challenges. For simplicity, let’s just call him “Stress”. And yes, the pun is intended.

These are trying times indeed. As we slowly creep towards an economic recovery, I doubt anyone will come out unscathed. Some will be affected more than others. When tested, our emotions run on high, our decisions impulsive, and our patience very thin. The question is, are we effectively navigating and managing our challenges?

“Stress” carries a big load and his trunk is filled (yea, intended again) and he is marching right towards you.

Stress generally comes in two different forms. There is that which we can’t do anything about. Some say death and taxes. I’ll add the decisions made or not made by others. Unless you’re making their mouth move with your hand or you’re a marionette, you can’t control what others say and or do.

Equally, there is self-imposed stress. That is the stress we put upon ourselves by the decisions that we make or don’t make each and every day. And, if we weren’t stressed enough by those decisions, we like to compound it by continually second guessing them.

So, we have a choice. Better manage stress, or let it consume us.

Firstly and most importantly, put things in perspective. Try to understand what is really important, and what is not. Are you the one I saw yelling at the grocery store clerk because the item was mispriced, even after she apologized? Or was that you screaming at the fast food cashier because you specifically asked for no onions, and damn it if they didn’t put onions on it.

Would you be humiliated by your behavior if they played the store video tape back and you were able to watch yourself on TV? Of course you would.

Is there one specific, yet simple tactic to modify our behavior? I don’t think so but, personally, I like to apply the ten second rule. I try to give myself ten seconds before I act or react. Let me get this out of the way right now, I can’t always do it. It’s not easy.

Ask yourself:

  • What are the consequences (good or bad) of my decision?
  • Will my actions cause unnecessary emotional strife?
  • How will the other party(s) perceive my decision?

And maybe most importantly,

  • Will I end up regretting my actions?

No, you can’t change other people. You can’t tell them how to react or how to interpret you. What you can do however is to be cognizant of their feelings and act or react in a manner which is well thought out and respectful. After you have done that, move on.

I remember reading a book many years ago and my apologies to the author for forgetting his name or even the title, where he quoted a story about General Dwight David Eisenhower. It seems that Eisenhower was asked how he was emotionally able to send thousands and thousands of troops off into battle clearly knowing that many of them would not return. Surely each of them had parents, many with siblings and children and that burden had to unbearable for him.

Eisenhower responded simply by saying “I sit down and analyze all the facts available to me at the time, make my decision, and most importantly I never look back”.

Don’t stress yourself out by over thinking and over analyzing situations. Make your decisions based on facts rather than emotion. Remember; don’t waste precious time and energy revisiting your decision.

Many stressful circumstances are indeed just that, because we have turned them into stressful circumstances. Learn to digest, analyze, and then react, rather than the other way around.

Just tighten a few of those loose screws (yea, did it again) and know that with just a little adjustment you can effectively manage any situation

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So Why Did the Chicken Cross the Road?

Jan 13 2012
By: Doron York
Categories: Business Ideas
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This morning as I was driving to my office, I saw a chicken crossing the road. My immediate thoughts were that he was on a mad dash to escape Coronel Sanders or he was just trying to get to the proverbial other side of the road. I just shook my head at first and found the humor in situation.

If you have gotten the time to know me, you know that I have a very difficult time just taking things at face value. I analyze and over analyze things. Yeah I know what you’re thinking, where do you come up with some of this stuff and sometimes I am really not too sure myself. But hey it’s just me and that odd perception I have on life.

As I was driving, I started to think about that old joke or riddle (whichever your definition is, is fine) and started to think about it in a slightly more complex way. Why was that chicken really crossing the road? Was it because he was just wandering aimlessly with no direction and the road was merely a path he decided on at the spur of the moment to take? Did he perform some kind of logical thinking process to decide that he needed to obtain a different viewpoint?

Maybe there was something on the other side of the road which captured his attention and he needed to cross over to the other side to investigate. Or maybe still there was something on the other side of the street that he wanted and he decided that he need to make that trek to obtain the desired goal.

And another thing, why did it have to be a chicken? Why not an Anteater or Rhinoceros or a Llama for that matter? I can think of some pretty funny jokes about why an Anteater crossed the road.

No, I’m not crazy. I am going somewhere with this. There is a method to the madness I call the bizarre logic of The Bruce.

If you haven’t figured out yet where I am going, try and think for a moment of yourself, as bizarre as this may seem, as the object contemplating that journey. Are you doing it confidently and with a sense of self-assurance or are you that “chicken”.

Many would describe that chicken as a healthier alternative to meat, however a secondary definition, now readily available and accepted by such dictionaries as Merriam Webster is “as a coward in any of various contests in which the participants risk personal safety in order to see which one will give up first”. I will take it one step further and go out on a limb and proclaim it to be simply someone who is full of trepidation and unsure or unable to take the next step.

Okay, so now maybe I have you thinking, am I a chicken, or am I am ok, bold and unstoppable. Am I a little of both, or am I so incredibly complex that I am a bad Chinese placemat?

Now if you have managed to decipher who you really are, and I’m betting that many of you are not who you think you are, what is it that is on the other side of the road? Is it a matter of curiosity or is it a fundamental matter? Is it is something logical or is it speculative. The truth is, it is simply nothing more than change.

Sitting and staying on the same side of the road breeds complacency. As human beings, we love complacency. It’s warm and fuzzy and we have grown comfortable with it. If we are not forced to alter any portion of our being, we probably won’t.

I do believe however that if you want to be successful both in business and in your personal life; you need to be willing to face challenges.  We define ourselves by the number of risks that we are willing or not willing to take. Success beyond your wildest expectations and living life to the fullest extent means putting yourself out there and charging across the road.

What is on the other side of the road? I really don’t know. I believe it to be individualistic and therefore for you to figure out. It could be a new job opportunity, a partnership commitment, or simply an item on your “bucket list”.

Can I guarantee you that the grass will be greener, of course I cant. I can in fact however guarantee you one thing, and that is, that it will call for you to step out of your comfort zone and examine something that you have never experienced before.

Why did the chicken cross the road? Maybe it was for no other reason than he was hungry and saw no more corn feed in his sights so he needed to search for another opportunity to feed. For him, the potential gain exceeded the risk of starvation. He could no longer be complacent because it became a matter of survival.

Life is not about surviving; life is about living and making the very most out of each day. Yes, it’s challenging, but it is also adventurous and fun.

Take a risk today. Find something worth crossing the road for.

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Management is from Venus and Leadership is from Mars!

Jan 13 2012
By: Doron York
Categories: Business Ideas
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In my years as an executive coach, I have found that many organizations are missing two of most critical distinctions in leadership development: Management vs. Leadership. Although they are at times correlated, for the most part, they are mutually exclusive. Most CLO’s and senior HR executives intellectually will agree with me, yet they really invest no resources or very few resources to powerfully address it. (I know. I know – it is not in your budget.  Poor excuse, considering the alternative – lack of performance.)

It seems that any time senior executives elect not to deal with the challenges or difficulties of senior management or leadership performance, “lack of resources” and “no room in the budget” almost always is to blame. A senior exec in a very large company responded once, “We know that we are facing very critical leadership issues, but we have no time to deal with it right now.  Our plates are full.” It seems like the corporate world invented the word “oxymoron.”

The bottom line is: this is the most valuable and critical investment any organization can make, and should be put on the top of its list. It is the most important line item in the budget. It is called Leadership Equity.

It is VERY critical for companies and organizations worldwide to read this briefing with a high level of attention. It will mean the difference between good performance and extraordinary performance, the difference between an average return on equity and an exceptional return on equity, the difference between high shareholder value and poor shareholder value. And for some companies, even the difference between staying in business or going out of business.

In order to have this be a useful conversation, I am using these distinctions exactly as stated in the following statements:

Management – The ability to consistently maintain order, to seamlessly integrate people, systems and process to work effectively and efficiently together, causing predictability and stability.

Leadership – The ability to invent possibilities, open new frontiers and cause features to become reality, now, through the engagement and participation of others.

To say it another way, leadership is about Being and management is about Doing. Leader’s main concern is creating the future and managers concern is, to get you there. Although for some professionals, it is a natural evolution to take the next step and to make the transition between the two worlds, for most it is not. This very distinct transition is not a linear progression.  If anything, it is fundamentally non-linear in nature. Excellent managers will not necessarily become excellent leaders, and exceptional leaders are not necessarily excellent managers (in fact, significant numbers of leaders are not) or have any real interest to become one.  It is possible, but not likely. Most often, both distinctions are spoken of in the same context; however, Management truly is from Venus and Leadership truly is from Mars.

To successfully allowing people to make the leap, if that is the intention, will call forth a completely distinct set of skills and, most importantly, a completely different set of commitments and choices. It can be the case that in a given organization, you will find an extraordinary manager that can become a great leader, but it is more rare than common.

Here are some power tips for those who have been trusted with developing your company’s leadership talent:

  1. Leaders are made on the court, not in the stands – in theory, there is no difference between practice and theory; in practice, there is. There is no way to have leaders emerge in theory.  They will emerge only in practice, one challenge at a time.
  2. Start early, not late – leaders are made, not born. (Yes I know, occasionally they are born with it, but again, that is rare.)  Give yourself the time you, and they need to be developed – to be able go from failure to failure and not lose their enthusiasm, passion, commitment and choices.
  3. The opportunity defines the leader, not the circumstances – the circumstances that leaders find themselves in or dealing with are irrelevant.  The opportunity they generate out of the circumstances is what builds and constructs their “Leadership DNA.” Breakdowns are the perfect training ground for leadership.
  4. You can put a price tag on skills, but the “heart” is priceless – it is not the skill set that you want to evaluate; it is the scope of the heart. Leaders need to have miles and miles of heart. It is the commitment that constitutes who they are that really counted, not the presence or absence of skills. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach heart.
  5. It is not about your organization’s needs and wants –it is about the organization’s long-term commitment. The journey of creating the opportunity for leadership is a journey without a destination.  Leadership is a place to come from, not a place to get to. It is a road that will never end.
  6. You can’t shape their “Leadership DNA” – it is their job, their choice; not yours and/or your organization’s.  The only way you can contribute is by creating the opportunity and then hands off, let them do the work. It is their journey, not yours – and they may never arrive.  That is a risk you will have to take.  There are no short cuts.

Have you ever heard the expression “punishment by reward”?  Rewarding an exceptional manager with a leadership opportunity without the organization’s unconditional commitment to their training and development and sufficient investment in their success can be detrimental and quite costly. It also requires a completely different roadmap for the discovery process: much more ontological than practical.

If this briefing comes across a bit harsh or strong, good!  I want to get your attention.  No offence is intended; quite, the opposite. In my profession, I have developed a deep appreciation for those who stand for leadership, causing people to take life head-on, and for those that are big enough to allow people to grow bigger than they themselves, ever imagined. It is quite extraordinary.

When the work is done, a great leader is measured, I say, by the number of leaders they inspired to be.

Remember: Leadership is much more of an art than a science!

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What do leaders and the Northern Salmon have in common?

Jan 09 2012
By: Doron York
Categories: Business Ideas
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We discussed some of the fundamental elements of leadership in the last briefing.  Now let’s continue our “leadership fast-track boot camp”.

What do leaders and the Northern Salmon have in common? Well, here it is: at their core, the “DNA makeup” of both leaders and the Northern Salmon is to swim upstream. It is constant and never-ending.

The salmon don’t know any other way, because that is how their DNA is programmed. For leaders, however, this phenomenon is counterintuitive to the fundamental DNA makeup of human being. For people, this is not an automatic habit, or even a preference. Actually, the opposite is the case. As human beings, we are taught and educated to be comfortable, to go with the flow, to not make waves, and keep things smooth – even if the cost is high.

But there is one thing that your internal dialogue (your “evil twin”) forgot to tell you.  Your comfort zone is a waiting room for your life to be over. It could be said that even if you don’t get what you are really committed to, it is ok as long as you are going through life without breakdowns, interruptions, or disturbances.

Remember, the number one objective of human being is to survive life. The question is what is it that you are actually surviving?  Someone once said, “How you spend your time is how you spend your life”.  If that is true, then at the end of your life the most powerful, though discomfiting, and question could be, “What was the purpose of your being here?”  I suggest you ask yourself that question now, rather than waiting until your number has come up.

Leadership is about how you lived your life, not about how you survived it.  It is about making noise when there is silence; about creating breakdowns when there are none; about creating disturbances when there are no storms.  Leadership is about interrupting the drift of life for no reason other than to explore new possibilities and invent new frontiers.  In short, to swim upstream, and to do so with grace, passion and full self expression – full out and without holding anything back, so that when you die, you are all used up.

Here are some elements to help shape your leadership DNA:

  1. A future without breakdowns is a future that is not big enough – One of the most common ways that human beings learn is through what is no working. Leaders view breakdowns as an opportunity to cause a breakthrough. You can’t have one without the other. A leader knows that. A leader views a breakdown as simply an interruption in his/her commitment, nothing more and nothing less. Leadership is the art of working effectively and powerfully with breakdowns in ways that allow new possibilities for breakthroughs to arise.  Welcome them, embrace them, look for them and cause them!
  2. Interruptions are ways to get the world’s attention – A leader would rather ask for forgiveness than wait for permission. Leadership is not about accommodating business as usual. Leaders use interruptions as a way to get people’s attention.  Interruption is a powerful tool – don’t be afraid to use it!
  3. Disturbances will get people out of their comfort zone – One of the most dangerous threats to extraordinary and exceptional performance is complacency. When things are going well, people tend to slow down and to become comfortable. Wise leaders know how to create disturbances to make sure that people are on high alert.  Try it sometime – it can actually be quite fun!
  4. Making noise will cause people to wake up out of a deep coma – In the drift of business as usual, when there is some momentum, people’s experience is often one of being in the quiet after the storm, and they have the tendency to fall into the “deep coma syndrome”. The excitement and the energy that was part of working so concentratedly has disappeared and faded away. Leaders need to make the noise when there is silence. Get people awake and present, continuing to move forward. After all, if you’re not moving forward, you are moving backwards.  You may not be the most popular person, but you will be the very effective one.  Remember – “In the end, it’s all about the results, stupid!”
  5. You swimming upstream will have people question their own habits – It might be the most difficult task to swim upstream, for it requires constant effort. Although you may experience a lot of resistance and inertia at first, over time people will start questioning why they aren’t swimming in the other direction. Changing people’s habits is a very tedious job. You can impact their habits only by impacting your own.  You need to be the change you want to see in others!

In order for a leader to have an impact, they must construct and assemble their “leadership DNA” so that swimming upstream becomes their natural expression – to the point that they do not know any other way, just like the Northern Salmon. It just becomes the way that life is, period.

Leadership is the kind of phenomenon that is not about privilege. Rather, it is about duty and responsibility. You got entrusted with the kingdom, and what will happen to it is up to you – and you alone.  You have trusted and knowledgeable people around you. Use them, empower them, acknowledge them – but at the end of the day, they’re all looking at you, kid.

There is an old saying: “When you are right, no one remembers, but when you are wrong, no one forgets”.  That’s the life of a leader.  Do you still want it?

Remember – your life is waiting, don’t be late!  See you in the northern waters.

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    PAAR & Company is a global enterprise that specializes in the impossible. We are in the business of coaching corporate leaders in advancing forward those areas that are making an immediate, relevant and positive impact on their leadership presence and that are highly critical to the sustainability of their enterprise.