Building The Bridge As You Walk On It

QuinnI just finished reading the book Building The Bridge As You Walk On It by Robert E. Quinn for a class on change. Like most of the other books assigned by this professor, I walked away with new insights on an idea I had previously felt well-informed. There were so many revelatory ideas in the book, at least to me, that I found it difficult to limit myself to just describing a few. Below are the top concepts that came to mind, but I recommend checking out the book for yourself to find what speaks to you.

  • Fundamental State of Leadership: One of the main elements of the book is the idea of the fundamental state of leadership; the state of mind where individuals “enter into a creative personal state that gives rise to a creative collective state.” In order to enter this state, we much change the way we approach situations.
  • Change ourselves before others: The main theme of the book comes down to this simple idea; we must take charge in first changing ourselves before we can hope to change anyone or anything else. I view this idea in several lights; being that we have to show others we are willing to take the necessary steps and being seen as genuine in our efforts. When reading the book, I look back and see that I was truly only able to make change when I had allowed myself to put purpose as the priority and not myself.
  • Increased integrity: Something Quinn mentions is that integrity is the “alpha and omega of leadership.” I feel this is a powerful statement as I agree that integrity is a process, not a destination. In order to address and lead change, we must confront our own gaps in integrity; what we say we do vs what we actually do. We have to monitor our own integrity and address our own hypocrisy. This self-reflection allows us to focus on purpose, rather than ourselves. This allows change and Quinn describes his 8 leading change characteristics converge on integrity.
  • Addressing our own hypocrisy: An idea that really struck me was this idea of hypocrisy; first having to address the biggest hypocrite – the one we see in the mirror. We often go into situations and don’t like what we see, but try to change everyone else, but not ourselves. A major example of this idea is of a CEO going into an organization and telling everyone below them to change, without willing to change themselves first.
  • Group discussion: A specific idea that I have been involved with and hope to continue to refine is the idea of using a group of individuals to share ideas and provide feedback. Working with entrepreneurs, I see this a lot, but would like to see it more with groups of managers, owners, etc. In a closed environment, trust can be built, and real solutions and advice can be shared. Quinn refers to these groups as being in a “sacred place.”
  • Real-time learning: Change is not a matter of applying past actions to a present situation. It is about being able to learn in real-time and create the solutions that are needed for those particular set of circumstances. For me, this helped me to redefine how I approach situations requiring change. It is not about applying traits or actions, but adjusting to ask the right question(s).
  • Not being present for the initiation of change: The last element I will discuss here is the idea that change agents must accept that they are likely not going to be present for the change they work to implement. Most organizations and leaders are comfortable where they are and proposed change is fought against. Change agents are often fired for attempting to alter the status quo, but the lingering questions and seeds planted from their attempt remains. This requires leaders of change to be more centered on purpose than themselves.

These are just a few of the great ideas I took away from Quinn. I would encourage anyone looking to help enact personal or organizational change to read the book. It is just as important to read the words, as it is to reflect on your own past actions to come up with plans to improve your processes for the future.

Check the book out by clicking here.

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Make Their Day – FISH! Philosophy

make their day2Of the four elements of the FISH! Philosophy, I saved this topic to write about last – make their day. The reason is because it took me the most amount of time to truly wrap my head around the concept in terms of applying it to my everyday work life. As part of my personality, I tend to help others and take time to create a positive work environment. The concept of making their day, however, can come very close to working against a leader if they overdo it with the need for affiliation with coworkers (McClelland’s Need Theory). What I have found is that there is a happy medium.

Below are the things I try to do for those around me. These are not necessary over-the-top actions, but I find that it is often the smallest actions that have the greatest impact.

  • Take time to say hello to everyone in the morning and stop to ask how they are doing.
  • Reference an earlier conversation on an important subject to them.
  • Offer to help with tasks that are not my normal responsibilities.
  • Ask follow-up questions when someone is obviously having a noticeably good or bad day.
  • Noticing something new or different, such as a haircut.
  • Share positive feedback with them in front of the team.

What I have found is that making someone’s day has to be part of who and what you are. People have to understand that you are doing something nice with no expectation of a return. When that is not the case, people question the motives and usually will not accept the action as intended.

For many years I considered myself a “nice guy,” but that didn’t really evoke the right feeling. I now like to describe myself as a good person. That is what allows me to show kindness and make people’s day because they trust who I am and what I am about.

There are wonderful payoffs when making someone’s day. While that is not the objective, it can certainly be an outcome. Last November, I was walking to class and stopped to help a student who was having trouble carrying some boxes. We were headed in the same direction and struck up a conversation. It ended up that she was an intern in the office I was applying for a job (my current position). While she was not in a position to help get me the job, it was a coincidence that helped buy me credibility before I even started.

You never know who or what is around the corner, so it is always a good idea to be kind and choose to make their day.

What is the best example from your own professional career of someone making your day? Please share in a comment below.

Related Posts:

FISH! – Be Present

FISH! – Play

FISH! – Choose Your Attitude

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Be Present – FISH! Philosophy

Fish-Philosophy-Be-ThereThe third concept I will discuss from FISH! Philosophy is “be present.” It goes beyond the idea of physically being present when talking to a friend, customer, coworker, etc. It is about giving your full, undivided, attention – actively listening. This seems so simple, but I have found it takes a great deal of effort to do it – every time. When thinking about this blog post I came up with a list of situations I have found where being present is most important.

  • Teleconference calls: This can perhaps be the toughest situation to be present because you are not physically in the room with other people. It is all too easy to surf the web or check your email as other people talk. I have done it and found that I don’t actually take anything away from the that conversation had while I wasn’t present. This has taught me to just close my eyes and take in the entire conversation, only stopping to write down notes.
  • Business meetings: Sitting in a room full of people I have found two ways to not be present; daydreaming and using my computer. I write all of my notes via computer, so it is easy to switch over to check my email. That one moment takes me out of the room and then it takes more time to get back into the conversation. Daydreaming is tough because, honestly, many meetings are irrelevant. However, it is important to be present because you never know when someone will ask you a question or reference a conversation from the meeting.
  • Customer conversations: Perhaps the most important time to be present is when you are talking to a customer. It doesn’t matter if it is on the phone or in person, being present in these situations can be directly connected to revenue. It is easy to tell when someone is present during conversation and when they are not. I start with making sure to say the other person’s name and then try to reference something said, both so they know I was engaged and for me to better understand and remember the conversation.

I have clear memories of times where I was not present and it caught up with me. Those moments are embarrassing because it truly is so easy to just be present and pay attention. I, like everyone else, am very busy and have my attention constantly being pulled in different directions. This is why being present is even more important because hearing something the first time and being able to take action, as well as creating and continuing positive relationships, is a clear path to success.

The next time you are talking to someone and find yourself not being present, refocus and find your own system for keeping your mind on what is at hand.

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Related Posts:

Play – FISH! Philosophy

Choose Your Attitude – FISH! Philosophy

Born to Blog

BornToBlogAs a new blogger, I am constantly looking for ways to make improvements and reach a larger audience. I have reviewed a number of resources and my goal is to take away at least one new element from each. I recently read Born to Blog, by Mark W. Schaefer and Stanford A. Smith. Written for those who are just getting started, this book provides excellent information to help newcomers find success. My greatest takeaways are laid out below.

  • Blogs are a noninvasive, trust-building, relationship booster: This stood out to me because, when done right, I have seen how powerful a blog can be.
  • There are five elements to writing a successful post: 1. Create a captivating headline. 2. Give a unique personal viewpoint. 3. Take a personal risk. 4. Create an entertaining spin. 5. Use words that sing.
  • Blogs offer the most potential value for businesses. The benefits include brand awareness, direct and indirect sales, sales support, R&D, PR, crisis management and expanding search engine traffic.
  • There are specific traits of a successful blogger; tenacity, focus on passion, flexibility, consistency and courage.
    • Tenacity in blogging comes down to working for years to start to build something; there is almost never instant success.
    • Without passion, failure is likely just a short time away. The true passion has to shine through in each post. It can’t be “all business.” People want to find out what you have to say.
    • Consistency in blogging means new posts at least once a month; there are many reasons for this and daily can become even easier over time. Every post doesn’t have to be profound, but does have to give some value.
    • Courage is likely the single most important element; sometimes just to hit the publish button.
  • There are three areas where blogging goes wrong; the wrong purpose, the wrong content and the wrong people.
    • Blogging must be done to tell you or your company’s story and share the core values.
    • The content must be real and connected to what you or your company are all about.
    • The people must be authentic and likely working for the company itself; not outsiders.
  • There are eight ways listed to develop readership for your blog. 1. Give away your best. 2. Add your blog to your current marketing efforts. 3. Contribute to other publications. 4. Get active on your reader’s social channels. 5. Use savvy, simple SEO; research keywords, optimize blog titles and post content. 6. Use guest bloggers. 7. Join and sponsor conversations, such as Twitter chats and discussion forums. 8. Reward your readers.
  • Bloggers for a company should come from every level, ranging from entry to C-suite, and training and support should be given to ensure quality and consistency.

These few items are just a portion of the pages of notes I wrote down, but were the ones I felt most applied to what I am doing with my own blog.

If you are looking to start blogging or would like to get a fresh perspective to improve your current blog, I would encourage you to check out the book.

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OPEN – Ordinary People, Extraordinary Network

network-treeLeaving my office the other day, I was feeling really excited about a client I had helped out. They were looking for information and I was able to put together data from various people who solved their issue. I said to myself, “I really have an extraordinary network of people to draw support from.” As soon as I said it, I thought back to Ted Coiné and Mark Babbitt’s, A World Gone Social. It was one of those moments where I felt like things had come full circle.

One of the many great items from the book is the OPEN concept; Ordinary Person, Extraordinary Network. The book asks the question whether you would rather have the top expert in the field, or one thousand ordinary people chosen at random. It is an interesting question. There are a few things that come to mind now that I have had time to process my thoughts.

What is an ordinary person? Is that me? I think I am an ordinary person in the sense that I don’t believe I am an outlier in many, if any, categories. This means that I, alone, will not likely solve a major mystery of the world. However, one of the most valuable lessons I have learned is that it is not just about what I can bring to the table myself, but what I can bring to the table with me.

It is through this, and similar experiences, that I have learned  that I truly have an extraordinary network; built through several different times in my life. First, I have two incredible parents who know someone in what seems like every industry out there. I am also a member of Sigma Nu Fraternity and was able to meet hundreds of people who I am personally connected with throughout my time on the General Fraternity staff. My current role in the NSBDC allows me to connect with any of my fellow business advisors in the over 1,000 SBDC offices around the country. My office is also housed at the University of Nevada, so I also have access to immensely intelligent minds spanning many subjects. And, finally, I have a wide network of friends throughout the country.

When it comes down to it, I have an extraordinary network that continues to grow. This offers me a tremendous opportunity to solve problems and get information from the people who know far more than I do about any given subject. Through this network, I feel like an old school telephone operator making connections from one side of the board to the other. This has been a great asset as I look for new and creative ways to solve problems that help others achieve success.

This has reiterated a powerful lesson to me – network and build relationships. I would rather have 1,000 ordinary people with each having a network of their own to help find solutions. While experts know their field, having 1,000, each with their own ideas, offers a level of strength that is difficult to match.

What is the best example of what you have been able to put together as a result of your network? Please add your response in a comment below.

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A World Gone Social

A World Gone Social: Six Months Later

Put a Little “Play” in the Office – FISH! Philosophy

FISH!-PlayI recently wrote a post about the FISH! Philosophy and choosing your attitude at work. That got me thinking about the other ideas in the book and, specifically, the idea of play. This came up in my office just the other day and I have been thinking about its impact ever since. I began a good bit of self-reflection about what play means to me.

To me, play is all about adding smiles to the office. This comes in many shapes and forms, but I feel it is about making people happy to the point where they show it on their face. Below are a few examples of what has stood out to me from my own experiences.

  • Trivia: Something that many people do for fun after work was started a few months ago by an intern at my office. Each day he writes a new question up on the board and most everyone gathers around in the intern room to offer up a guess. Gradually, everyone has gotten into it and there is real competition against those who are in the lead.
  • Donuts: While it doesn’t have to actually be donuts themselves, when someone brings in a treat (on all levels of the healthiness scale), there is commotion in the office. The discussion that comes about from people bringing in treats gives everyone a reason to come out of their office and socialize; that typically leads to jokes and laughter. Even those who gripe about having the temptation of eating sweets end up cracking a smile.
  • Retreats: These can range from an hour spent outside together doing some team-building exercises to a weekend at a wilderness retreat with a ropes course. Both can be really impactful and provide many benefits for the office, but should also be a lot of fun. If you don’t come back from a retreat filled with purpose and fully engaged, then something wasn’t done correctly.
  • Culture: To me, this is the most important part of play. Everyone needs to be involved. The Man can’t be walking around wanting to stop all of the fun being had. This also means that it can’t be forced – assuming that celebrating a birthday is going to get everyone having a good time. Creating a culture is a much larger issue, but one that must be in place to truly get the most out of play.

These are just a few of the elements that I have seen that make an impact on play in the workplace. Creating smiles and improving happiness has a dramatic effect on performance. With that being the case, there is no reason that everyone in a company or business should not get on-board with play.

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Choose Your Attitude – FISH! Philosophy

FISH!_logoMany years ago, I was asked to read a book before I started a new job. The book was FISH! by Stephen C. Lundin, Ph. D., Harry Paul and John Christensen. This was my first job out of college and I was raring to go and excited to have some reading material prior to starting. I had never heard of the book and only initially knew what I read from the cover; 2 million copies sold and a remarkable way to boost morale and improve results. I thought that was interesting and took the few hours to read it; at only about 100 pages I just sat at my desk until I was done.

I took a lot away from FISH! and would encourage everyone who works anywhere, so pretty much everyone, to read it. However, there is one topic from the book, in particular, that I would like to focus on here. That is to choose your attitude. Having gone to the bookshelf and pulled it out, I will likely reread it and discuss the book itself in detail later. For this post though, I specifically chose not to reread the book yet because I wanted to be able to discuss the ideas I have formed over the past seven years.

Getting the Idea: The idea of choosing your attitude has to come from somewhere, be it this blog, the book itself, a coworker mentioning the way of thinking, etc. No matter how it comes to be, the important thing is to understand what it means; or at least means to you. For me, choose your attitude means to deliberately act in certain way when at work – regardless of what the specific situation. Understanding that the most important time to choose your attitude is in difficult situations that overwhelm the senses.

Thinking about implementing it: Once you have head wrapped your head around the idea, you have to think about how this can fit into your general way of thinking at work. Run a self-assessment on how you feel. Do you like your job? Do you like your coworkers? Do you like your boss? Do you like the work you are doing? Do you like your desk, office location, parking situation, etc.? After you have answered these questions for yourself, you can think about how you can choose to be positive about it. Short of quitting your job, which is always a possibility, you have the opportunity to view your situation in a positive light. Sometimes this can be very difficult, I certainly understand and have lived that, but I have always tried to hold to having a positive attitude which results in positive behaviors.

Testing it out: Now comes the fun part. Go to work and be positive. When you see the person you don’t particularly care for, simply smile and say, “good morning.” At your desk, put up a picture of your loved ones. If you already have that up, put a picture of your favorite vacation or a place you are looking forward to going to next. If you need something more challenging or would like to explore another aspect of your job, talk to your manager/boss/supervisor about taking on a project to try it out. When something goes wrong, be objective and try to learn from it and share your thoughts. If you need ideas, just ask me and I will try to help you out.

Making changes as needed: After you have started to actually choose to be positive, especially when it is difficult, think about how it went. Are there changes you need to make? If so, test out new ideas. For me, the easiest way to get in the mindset, especially during tough times, I find a mirror (and with no one looking at me) and just smile. I smile into the mirror and see the happy guy on the other side. It may sound simple, or corny, but it can really work for me. If you see yourself happy, then it is easier to get in that mindset. You can try what works for me and/or come up with your own process.

There it is, just that simple. Writing has made me think about what I have learned about choosing my attitude over the last few years. While I generally have a positive outlook on life and it may be easier for me to look through rose-colored glasses, I still have rough days just like everyone else. That is when I am truly tested and have to put in extra effort to choose my attitude.

Please share your ideas for keeping a positive attitude in a tough situation at work in a comment below.

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