The win at all costs culture

Performance enhancement.  It’s all over the sports pages, it dominated the business news during the credit default crisis, it fills your email spam folder.  So we could take the conversation in a lot of directions.  Is it a predominantly male ego competition thing?  Well we’ve seen lots of doping in female athletes and financial manipulation by female CEOs.  Is the accelerated expectation of every conceivable domain?  Technology has conditioned us to expect instant, online, as requested fulfillment.  If the 1970’s were the “Me” generation, the 2010’s are the “Now” generation.  Is it the density of competition and scarcity of opportunity in our post industrial economy?

What ever happened to ‘it’s not whether you win or lose, it’s how you play the game’.  Fairness, cooperation and a service attitude are all but gone from most spheres of modern life.  We seem to operate under the assumption of a zero sum gain.  If there is a winner there has to be a loser.  I even saw an advertisement during the British Open golf tournament that essentially pointed out the gift that the losers give the winners (without the loser there would be no winner).

In her book Influencing with Integrity, Genie Laborde presents a concept I have been implementing and teaching about ever since I read it.  The idea is ‘Dovetailed Outcomes’.  The way to get more done through cooperation is to make sure that we have a clear idea what our partner wants and needs from the interaction, project, purchase etc.  What is there desired outcome?  What is ours?  When we get those two things in line with each other, we both win if we are both successful.

What if at the end of an interaction there are two winners and not a winner and a loser.
That method applies in sales, software design, staff management, marriage, politics and everywhere else.  Getting to dovetailed outcomes requires a clear vision of my own goals and needs and an empathetic understanding of the needs of my ‘partner’ whether that is a trading partner, project sponsor, project teammate, employee, dance partner et. al.  Achieving those rewards for both parties forces me to think beyond the immediate and see the longer term value to be created.

Now in a sports event, there are winners and losers.  It made me crazy when all of my daughters soccer games ended in a tie.  Children need to learn that some activities involve a score and that one side wins and the other loses.  We can’t give out bogus trophies all the time and create a false image.  What we can do however, is notice where our focus of communication is placed.  When I coached kid’s softball I told my team we had the following goals;

  1. learn the game and the skills so at the end of the season we were better players than at the start.
  2. support each other as teammates and behave in a sportsman like manner with opponents, umpires, parents etc.
  3. have fun
  4. win

So I didn’t come from the Lombardy school of coaching.  For my teams winning wasn’t the only thing, but it was something.

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Posted in Leadership, personal productivity

Make it your own.

My wife and I are doing a renovation project on our kitchen.  So many lessons of this home project are applicable to my work projects.  Having a vision of the outcome is critical, of course.  Here is another.  To make this a successful project for us, it has to be a reflection of us.  My wife keeps emphasizing that we have to make sure our kitchen doesn’t turn out like a cookie cutter project you see in every magazine and website.  It has to be uniquely our own.  For us that means it can’t be a set of boxes and straight lines.  It has to have a sense of space and color.  The function has to match the way we live.

Well that’s true of successful projects of every ilk.  Your software design can’t be a cookie cutter project that is one size fits all.  What is your industry, your customer’s needs, the unique way your product or service reflects their needs and your core capabilities?  Even mundane things like financial process re-engineering has to reflect what is true about your company and your priorities.  Make it real, make it personal, make it work.

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Posted in personal productivity

Treating the symptoms

I have had a variety of intestinal ailments for more than thirty years.  In the last two weeks, I have had some nasty symptoms.  My response has largely been in the area of treating just the symptoms and not really the causes. Pain usually means we go right after the symptoms to stop the suffering as fast as possible. Dealing the with causes requires a change in behavior and the patience to see the changes take effect.

Guess what? Our business issues are the same. Drops in revenue or service levels, customer complaints, systems failures; whatever the pain we tend to go right after the symptoms rather than address the causes.  But in business as in our own health, the long term solution that addresses root causes is the only way to permanently eliminate the symptoms.

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Posted in personal productivity, Wellness

Where are your ‘dead shark’ projects

We all have projects that have stopped moving. The key is to acknowledge that fact and then either get the projects moving or declare them complete and move on. Declaring the project done is more valuable for freeing up our trapped energy than beating ourselves up when things aren’t moving.

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Yoga for coders

I like this article and it applies to everyone not just coders

article on Fast Company site

Particularly the comment that our minds lie but our body never lies. The tension we hold, the way we hold our breath, the aches and pains, the other changes are all information and feedback for us to listen to, not ignore and hope they go away.

Yoga is a great way to release stress, connect mind and body and also learn to listen to the wisdom of our own bodies.

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Practice Quote of the Day

“Practice means to perform, over and over again in the face of all obstacles, some act of vision, of faith, of desire. Practice is a means of inviting the perfection desired.”

 Martha Graham

I like the idea that we are inviting what we desire through practice.  In that sense, practice is not an arduous chore.  It is a fervent and loving supplication.

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Posted in personal productivity, Quotes

Overcoming Inertia

“Every body perseveres in its state of being at rest or of moving uniformly straight forward except insofar as it is compelled to change its state by forces impressed.”

– Sir Isaac Newton

I hadn’t been to a yoga class in about three weeks. Back pain was my main excuse but I had become a ‘body at rest’. My wife said ‘let’s go even if it’s just SloYoga’. We did, it was good. On the way home she reminded me that getting off V0 or a state of non-movement is harder than changing direction once you are already moving. In other words, if I’m stuck it’s better to make any move than wait to make the right move.

It helps to have a buddy to help us get moving. If you are self employed that might be a coach or someone you know who is also self employed and can serve as a reciprocal source. You don’t need a nag, but a little push off zero can be all you need to get moving again.

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“Enjoy your achievements as well as your Plans”

“Do not distress yourself with imaginings”, “whether it is clear to you or not, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should”  Thanks Max.

For a little comic relief, here is the National Lampoon version from 1962.

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Posted in personal productivity, Quotes

Productivity Podcast

Here is a link to an archived version of the conversation I had last Friday with Sam Liebowitz of the Conscious Consultant Hour radio show.

It hits on some of the topics I wrote about last week, including clearing our Mental RAM.

Just click the Play button below and it should start streaming right inside your browser.


Hope you enjoy it.

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Posted in personal productivity


Do you have lots of clutter around your office or work area? What is it? Piles of papers? Envelopes and folders? Books? Boxes?

I can see two easy explanations for your clutter.

1. You don’t have enough filling, storage and bookshelf space to get it put away.     Solution: Get Some.

2. Each item is actually a talisman. You are using that pile or folder etc. as a sacred object to store the memory of the next action associated with the outcome that pile represents.  As long as you faithfully keep that pile or VHS tape or magazine or box, you cannot lose the outcome for which your clutter is a bookmark.  We have an irrational fear that if we can’t see the talisman, the goal and its attainment simply vanish into thin air.     Solution: Get Clear.

How do we get clear?  We have to take the tacit and make it explicit.  Capture in a system you trust the outcomes and the next actions (do I write this sentence in every one of my posts?) and you have to review it regularly so that you can let go of the talisman.

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