The problem with competent people

Competent people are a problem for leaders accustomed to less. They require an entirely different mindset and skillset. 

Competent people do well with constant learning, inspiring connections and meaningful work. They disengage and start new job searches or early retirement when the environment offers the opposites. Leaders who want to attract and grow competent people need to take an approach that works for them. 

The extraordinary potential of the workplace

The workplace can be an optimum place for learning how to share power, responsibility, perspectives and talents.  This learning is vital to doing the same in every other dimension of our personal and collective lives. There are few institutional places where this learning is possible because they are structured against it. The good news is that it doesn't require any more skills than an 8 year old has. It's simply a matter of engaging new habit chemistries of these abilities. 

When people feel heard

When people on teams feel heard by peers, they trust them. This is significant because teams move at the speed of trust. Shared trust is core to engagement and creativity. Trust cannot be mandated or incentivized. It must happen authentically in the quality of interactions and collaborations. It is not a factor of demographics or structures. It begins with how we listen.

Why we need to abandon performance reviews

Useful feedback happens quickly, ideally in real time while it's still actionable. It is not even postponed a week much less a year. Withholding feedback is a core barrier to learning. It is passive aggressive behavior, not useful compassion and support.

We would drop any friend in a minute who one day says they have important feedback for us but they're going to keep it secret until a an annual performance review they'll do with us. 

This is why we need to design quick feedback loops into all dimensions of work so people can be agile in their learning and course-correct as soon as possible, with zero delays in potential learning. Every workplace has the time to do this. All we have to do is reduce meeting and email waste by even 10% to free up time for useful feedback that is accurate, actionable, timely and confidence-building. 


Recovering our creativity potential

In early childhood, we use about 80% of our creativity potential. Conventional education reduces this to less than 10% by age 12 because our young brains atrophy as academic and developmental success is measured more in answer compliance than cultivated curiosity.

Thanks to the neuroplastic nature of our brains, we can reawaken our creative potential at any point in our life. We can learn and practice any creative form that appeals to us. It can be in any form of writing, drawing, painting, photography, studio arts, film, music, cooking, gardening or design. Nothing has to be shared or published. The learning is unlimited.

The weakness fallacy

In perfectionist cultures, weaknesses are accountability targets. They are not tolerated. They are considered a source of blame and shame.

In smart cultures, it's clear that we do our best learning and growth from beginner's mind. This is the realization that learning is essential to a life of meaning and meaningful work and they we have much to learn.

At age 90, the celebrated and incredibly inventive Pablo Picasso reflected that he felt like he was just beginning to learn how to paint. This is beginner's mind. This is the empowerment of not calling our learning potential a weakness, but rather, the greatest gift.

Why continuous improvement can fail

Despite the sincere intentions to improve how things happen at work, efforts can fail to attract support even when people are empowers. Improvement implies uncertainty and people who already feel they have already reached or exceeded their uncertainty threshold will resist even reasonable attempts at improvement. This is a call for an improvement process that turns uncertainty into an asset rather than threat to certainty. It can be done.

Belonging and kindness

Interesting research recently indicating that empowering people who lack a sense of belonging causes them to be more insensitive to others. Power without belonging leads to uncaring. This explains th bullying of leaders who feel increasingly isolated and competitive. Creating connections becomes key to a culture of mutual respect.

The unreasonable power of the future

There is mounting evidence that our sense of the future is perhaps more significant than our sense of the past. This is true for things we call optimism and depression, agency and helplessness, compassion and apathy. 

It is what brings life and power to liberating structures like the Agile Canvas and Open Space. Our sense of the future animates and focuses the mindful present. New questions all find their source in a new lens on the future. When we want to reshape the present, we need to reshape our sense of the future through new questions.

The non-collaborative among us

Some people feel they do their best work alone. They feel more productive and creative. Collaboration lands somewhere between inefficient compromises and unfulfilling distractions.  They often have important and useful contributions to collaborations when invited and engaged. It is a benefit to any group to make these invites and engagements happen. Everyone ultimately benefits.

Leaders who inspire

One of the most valuable gifts of leaders is inspiration. Good leaders practice a bias for being inspiring rather than managing by hope, criticism and bullying. They inspire with new questions, storytelling, useful feedback and connecting people. People grow capacity for mindfulness and learning when they are inspired more than perspired.

The Magic Of Journaling

Being focused and productive starts with being reflective. Bouncing between meetings, emails, social media and obligations does not make for a reflective life. Reflection happens with journaling. I would suggest from experience that journaling delivers a uniquely better reflective expedience than many forms of meditation or yoga. The benefits are vast.

As a matter of fact, technology distraction is not possible

The quality of our attention is a habit. If we practice monkey mind of distraction, anything can be an object of attention. The habit of focus becomes more possible when we own our attention. We do this by accepting that when our attention goes to something, it's when we put it there. Nothing has the power to attract or distract us. We do that. As soon as we stop blaming technology for the quality of our attention, we empower ourselves to grow capacity for intentional focus.

Liberating the younger gens at work

We were in a conversation this week with a room full of twenty and thirty somethings who work for a company whose question is how people can do emails better. It's incredible to us in this age where we have more apps that we could ever need to eliminate all emails altogether. We still have miles to go before we sleep.

Is data the enemy?

The idea that people believe what their tribe believes is as old a narrative as human experience. The idea that equal credibility could be given to data that defies tribal beliefs is a more recent development in the human narrative arc. 

It's bringing about a new tribe. This is the tribe that believes that data is our friend, not the enemy. Buddhism is one of the oldest traditions in this tribal perspective, even today when we hear the Dalai Lama say you cannot be Buddhist and deny quantum physics. 

Being confronted with open contradictions between data and tribal beliefs sends people into existential tailspins.  The choice feels life threatening and untenable. If we can't live with the question about what each has to offer, we can default to the more viscerally imperative protection of tribal narratives. Escaping the dilemma becomes possible in living from new questions. 

The new leadership conversation on performance

The old leadership conversation on accountability was attention to clearly communicating extrinsic consequences to good and bad performance.

The new leadership conversation is about learning. Performance improves when people learn new ways of working. Consequences don't cause learning. People learn when they have the why and how to do so. Learning requires courage. Fear, which naturally occurs with the imposition or threat of consequences, prevents learning and makes people more learning disabled. 

An Improbable Courage

"An Improbable Courage" is the first of this year's new work, book 22, hopefully out by the end of the year. It's a series of meditations on courage. Courage supports us in any life and career transitions, personal changes and adventures, in recovery from loss and in beginning any new relationships. Courage is what we do in the face of uncertainty. It transcends optimism and pessimism. It is commitment to discovery.

Putting strengths in perspectives

In a workshop we did yesterday, I had the opportunity to provoke people with the reality that, according to hundreds of studies, the more we focus on our strengths and those of others, the more they grow.

Strengths live on passion and quality continua. We have more to less passion for them. The more passion, the more likely we are to engage them. We have more or less quality in how we engage them. The more quality, the more value a strength yields. We grow strengths in passion and quality through understanding our why, learning from others who have more mastery with them, and practicing them.

Time is not the problem

Time doesn't expand or contract in reaction to the size of our todo lists. We never get more or less time. It is a constant and not manageable because managing something implies the ability to change it somehow. The idea of time management is pure illusion, and the basis for a plethora of unrealistic expectations and accompanying frustration. All we can manage is how we create and sustain momentum in whatever we have to do, all the musts and wants.

Distraction blame

One of the first steps in becoming less distracted is owning our distractedness. This means no longer blaming other people and things. It's knowing that and how we distract ourselves. We are not distracted by other people, technology, emails, alerts, and the plethora of possible unplanned phenomena in our everyday experience. As soon as we own it, we choose when and how we want to be distracted.