Leadership

Reality show or finance industry?

Can reality shows teach you anything about your workplace? Before I had the misfortune to turn ill on my last adventure to Borneo, I would have said - not much. So a few weeks and a couple of reality shows later I have changed my mind. Since I am so interested in leadership, communication, group dynamics and relations I soon got caught up in a couple of the shows. The different roles and behaviors are much more apparent on TV since they choose to show only the juicy stuff. 

As in organizations some people think long term and do everything they can for the group. If they spend time taking care of necessary tasks instead of politics, they will be thrown out, no matter if the group will suffer when they are gone. In a workgroup, I always find several people that are extremely good at what they do. Management tends almost to forget that these people exist until they for some reason don’t turn up at work. Those are my favorites. They have much knowledge and are not involved that much in meetings and other non-essentials. They are left doing their job and often like that someone pays attention to them. Their competence could be used much better. When I lead a project my primary goal is to get the results I have been hired to accomplish. Those persons don’t get thrown out at the earliest stages of the reality shows, but on the other hand, they never win. 

Other people only care about politics. Of course, they take on some of the assignments since they don’t want people to understand how little they do. They don't mind hiding behind a wall pretending to be working if they get the opportunity, backstab people, or fool them into trusting in them. That it hurts the others and the group long term does not seem to bother them. Do I need to mention that they are never thrown out early in the show? They are often one of the persons staying longest on the farm/beach/whatever.

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We can love and hate the people that take part in reality shows, and even make jokes about them, but we seldom notice the same behaviors in organizations.

So who are the ones that often win or at least come a long way? The ones that work just hard enough not to be considered lazy, but not so hard that they don’t have time and energy for politics. They should also not be unusually energetic, quiet or talkative. They should be pleasant, friendly, a bit interesting, but not too much. At least this works for Nordic reality shows, except for Paradise Hotel and similar. Unfortunately, workplaces seem to function the same way, at least in the big organizations. So we end up having nice, quiet workplaces with not too many changes. 

To make things happen turbulence is unavoidable. Maybe we need to be more accepting, and even welcome differences? Perhaps we should let the hard working, long term thinking guy win, or the one that has a different view on most things. They might both be better for your company if you want to become the winner in the new reality. We can all agree that change is inevitable! The workplace might be a bit more turbulent until we all learn to communicate better when we have different opinions, but in the long run, we will all be better off.

Suddenly lost your motivation?

Have you ever suddenly found yourself without motivation for things you normally love doing? It could be that you can’t get up in the morning to go to work or find your partner to be extremely boring or irritating, or find the Gym you used to love to be impossible to prioritize. I have a special talent - to motivate myself! I am actually good at motivating others too, but that is another story. 

Yet I can suddenly find it extremely hard to find “time” to take my long walk, go swimming, tidy up my office, or plan dinner (I don’t like cooking except for a special dinner, or a party). The strange thing is that motivation seems to disappear suddenly and often for no reason. 

So what do you do when you often don’t know what to cure? I know quite a few people that start looking for a new job when they lose motivation. But they seldom apply for the job since motivation has returned when it is time to send in the application. Some people decide to leave their partner, and we who have to listen to their complaints don’t take them seriously after a few rounds.

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What I suggest is that you focus on something else. The reason you lost motivation is probably temporary, but if it isn’t you can still look for new jobs, partners, or Gyms when you have decided that the lack of motivation is serious and solvable.

There are some things that always work to increase motivation - at least in the short run:

  1. Do something you really like - eat chocolate, drink champagne, sunbathe, read a good book, or meet your best friends.
  2. Take a long walk - the brain will be fooled into believing life is not that bad after all.
  3. Do something that will make you exhausted - boxing, running, climbing, etc but I have to admit that when I have lost motivation I am not capable of that so I go for the first two alternatives.

Good luck!

 

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Grup dynamics and adventure

How does it work if you put 44 people in a bus and give them a tough schedule, so they barely have time to take a shower?

I got the most interesting opportunity to study group dynamics when I was talked into taking “the big tree trip” from Sweden to Seattle, down through Oregon and California ending in San Fransisco with foresters, forest owners, and farmers - and I am not a group traveler! I am much more the “backpacker type” who like the freedom to choose my path and timetable.

The first challenge was to present ourselves after a long day in Seattle visiting several sites and traveling south without time for lunch. We started our presentations at 6.30 pm, tired and hungry, and people handled it very differently. Some never stopped talking, eager to tell everybody as much as possible! Others were so nervous that they needed notes. And so there were those who self confidently presented themselves as it was the most natural thing in the world. And finally the most common type - they did what they were told to do and were eager to get it over with.

Now after 7 days together we are a group of people that I barely can imagine living without! We have not had a single conflict or disagreement during this week even though the schedule has been extremely tough with no room for private excursions.


The leaders have been focused on making sure that everyone gets as much as possible out of the trip, i.e., they have been goal oriented, positive and coaching but they have not left room for changes in their plan since they know what we need to do during these 12 days. They have done this trip many times and know! And we all accept it!

I will give both of them my book “Leadership & Wisdom - how to motivate yourself and others” since I like to show them my appreciation. They are doing a great job, but for a person with a growth mindset, there is always room for new ideas and tools.

The things I have experienced so far have exceeded all expectations - I was talked into this trip - and we have several days left with experiences that I know will exceed my expectations once again.

If you want to be positively surprised now and then you need to open your mind and welcome surprises!

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Extraordinary people

Business is all about people. If you don’t understand people - you don't understand business. To understand people and cultures, all types of group, corporate and social cultures, I travel. I spend a lot of time and money on traveling, and I will continue to do so. This time my trip, with first stop Seattle, is a combination of business and inspiration from, for me, many new experiences (read my coming blogs). 
My trip started with the unexpected meeting with Barbara on my flight. She turned my flight, although seated in the middle, into 9,5 enjoyable hours during which I among many other things learned a lot about what to do in Seattle during my 6 days here. Tired after a long flight I could just look at my notes, put on my walking shoes and start walking! Thank you Barbie I hope to see you soon again!
I met Larry Wood, who you should contact if you want to set up your social media strategy. He put me in contact with my Editor Melanie Baur. If you need newsletters or help with some other information material, she is the one! They have taken me around Seattle and made my days such a great experience. Could it get any better? 
Today I met the CEO of Creative Biz Futures, Jim Bergquist, which is an extraordinarily interesting, clever and creative person. But he is also one of the nicest persons I have ever met, and his story made me realize that I temporarily had lost my vision. He has managed to coach the fishmongers at Pike Place Fish Market to make it world famous and stay world famous for 30 years!! After my long meeting with Jim, I talked to 2 of the guys - what an attitude they have! If you are ever in Seattle buy some fish or a book from them and talk to them - learn from them! 
Yesterday I met Scott Davis, Cune Press, who hopefully will be my Publisher! He took me around yet other parts of the area, and I met his fantastic family and had a great evening of sharing and learning. 
Good relationships can make any environment great - or not that great - so take responsibility for your reality! You create your reality by your attitude and your thoughts.
Between my engaging, fun and interesting meetings I take long walks and enjoy the beautiful and expansive city and watch interesting herds of Canadian baseball fans, a much greater diversity of people than in Stockholm city and enjoy staying at a hotel where I unintentionally get “The Lumberjack Song” in my head.
I have another 3 days to enjoy here among these amazing people that are role models of positive and constructive attitudes.

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Age vs. creativity? Yayoi Kusama 87

I have been fortunate to meet several fantastic persons aged 80-90 and have made a habit of writing about these role models we all need.  I went to see the Kusama exhibition in Stockholm and was amazed! Not by her magic installations since I have seen so many pictures of them and you are seldom really amazed by things you expect. I was amazed by what she has produced during the last 5 years - between age 82-87! She has painted 1000 giant paintings which means almost 1 every second day (according to the guide). And they are good! I think they are among the best in her career - so far! She plans to make at least another 1000 paintings and continue to paint after she is dead. That is a positive attitude!

We very often say that productivity decreases with age and that creativity almost disappears with age. We say that we don't learn new things after the age of 40 (quoting recruiters). And here she is - one of the most creative and productive persons alive. And she is 87. At the same time, I meet and hear a lot about people aged 16-30 that don't want to do much to make money or a career. They prefer to stay at home where food comes at fixed times every day, and the room is getting cleaned while they play digital games. Are these the productive and creative people the companies and society need? 

And if someone might think that I describe every person aged 87 or 25 you can stop reading immediately! I am against all stereotypes but use them to maybe make a slight difference in the way we look at people. This might be one of my more provocative blogs but since it’s Friday - why not? 

Let us all agree that we need productivity, creativity, energy and a positive attitude to make this world a better place. To do this, we need to nourish all good seeds we find. Let us skip age, race, gender, looks, etc. and start looking at what we have in front of us. We cannot keep up with a changing world if we leave the main part of the most talented world out.
After reading about Yayoi Kusama, I know that she would not have been able to become the amazing artist she is if she had been born 40 or so years later in for example Sweden. So how many Yayoi Kusamas are sitting outside society because they have some mental issues (does Yayoi have them? More than enough) or the wrong skin color?

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Make the workgroup productive and creative

Don’t we all want to work with people that have energy, a positive attitude, deliver at least what we agreed when we agreed or preferably better and earlier? Don't we also like people to be creative - to come up with new ideas? If you don't agree I am eager to know what you work with and why you would prefer people that don’t do much and never have any suggestions. I am pretty sure I would have much to learn from you since that view is so far from mine. We have a lot to learn from people that don't think and act like us. Every new thought that is planted in our brain will result in a little development of our brain which is always a good thing - scientifically speaking! People around us sometimes prefer when we don't think but we should not take them seriously.

So if most of us want this productive and creative workgroup how come there are so many other types of groups that don't function the way we like? I would say laziness, to take the easy way out and that we don't take the time to realize that the group doesn't work optimally. Most important is that we are seldom rewarded if we improve the way the group functions. I have seen so much improvement potential in the groups I have come across when working with change management and project management. I have made improvements and made suggestions for improvements but extremely seldom been rewarded or had the possibility to spread the knowledge. For me, the reward has been that I have been able to deliver better results in my projects and had much more fun doing it when energy, attitude, and creativity improved significantly. 

Of course, you want to know the quick fixes!

  • Start with yourself - make sure you believe in what you do! There are easy ways to convince yourself to start believing.
  • Communicate! Don’t withhold information. Communicate with pictures and humor!
  • Make sure the goal is clear to everyone in the group and let them question it to understand and accept it before proceeding. If you read what I write about how people function you will know how you get each individual on board.
  • Set a motivating and demanding plan and encourage all initiatives and progress.
  • Have meetings that engage and increase the level of energy in the group. Pictures, surprises and time and room for others to speak! I assure you that it will not take more time for you to prepare fun and engaging meetings but it might feel uncomfortable. Remember that it is outside your comfort zone you grow!

Good luck! You know where to find me if you have questions or want more tips. 

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Self-motivation

One of the most common questions I get when discussing projects or challenges at work, in my networks or with family and friends is “how do I lead myself, how do I get myself going?”. 

When challenges are not too tough and there is flow in some areas we can manage to motivate ourselves to take on also the less nice challenges. But when it seems as if the challenges and problems are hitting us faster than we can handle them we lose faith. Suddenly every small problem feels like a giant obstacle that is impossible to tackle. So what should you do when you feel knocked down by your problems? 

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  • Find an area from where you can collect positive energy - sun, walking, weightlifting, music, movies, chocolate, knitting, chopping firewood, etc.
  • Take small steps and focus on one challenge at the time. Each step is a step forward - however small!
  • Ask yourself if the challenge you meet should be handled at all. Sometimes we try to succeed with things someone made us believe we want when we actually did not want to do it at all. That is often a reason for things to become big problems - we have postponed them for too long.
  • Be a cheerleader to yourself! Tell yourself how good you are and celebrate even the smallest progress. You have a tendency to undervalue the appraisal that comes from yourself so give yourself more appraisal than planned.
  • Get out of your comfort zone! Admit what motivates you and do it! I dance, I talk to myself, I act as if my favorite football team scored - and it works! I am known to be a master at self-motivation and productivity and I have been my own boss for many years.
  • Pretend to be an entrepreneur that has no other choice than to get himself going to get food on the table!

I send you all the power you need to have a fantastic summer being motivated to take on challenges and handle problems with a smile! 

 

Meeting? Make it a good one!

 

Make this week different! If you work in a big company or organization you probably spend a large part, maybe the majority, of your time in meetings especially if you work as a specialist or as a Manager. Research shows that very few meetings are effective and even more seldom do you leave a meeting full of energy. Unfortunately that’s true also if you lead the meeting.
 

Since you are very busy I will give you the short track to successful meetings. If you think this is too basic I can assure you that these simple tips should have improved most meetings I have attended. I could tell you many stories around point 5-6. This is not in all parts applicable for pure information/lecture:

  1. Be enthusiastic in the invitation and communicate that you look forward to the meeting!

  2. Set up a clear agenda, highlight the goal for the meeting and give a short description of the context! 

  3. Ask all participants to prepare for the meeting (read your material or prepare their questions).

  4. Prepare at least 1 surprise for the meeting. It can be fruit, candy, a story or a different set up in the meeting room. It will change the mindset and create a more positive basis for the next meeting.

  5. Be structured - keep to the agenda and make sure you go through everything you planned. 

  6. Don’t talk too much - big NONO! Leave room for the participants to talk. Why should they otherwise attend?

  7. Use humour - a few laughs will lead to better results and people will be more willing to talk.

  8. Use pictures or illustrations rather than text. I know it can be challenging for you but it will be worth it. People can’t read and listen simultaneously! 

  9. Summarise the meeting, linked to the agenda, and tell the participants what will happen next.

I look forward to attend your next meeting! Since I probably won’t I would love to hear how it went!!

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Lead - stop controlling!

It’s easy to spend your time trying to control instead of leading, coaching and motivating others. The main reason for it being easy is that it can be done without having to be too engaged in others. You don’t have to understand them, you don’t have to talk to them and you definitely don’t have to ask open-ended questions to them. Another important reason is that being in control gives you a feeling that you have accomplished something. Do you dare to continue reading?

People spend loads of time and energy on controlling. Most Managers and Project Leaders, unfortunately, spend the majority of their time controlling. They build and maintain structures, tools, and methods. They have many meetings around controlling and measuring and few around goals and creative solutions. What does controlling add to the result? Does it take you closer to your goal? If you read research in this area the sad truth is - not much! 

Why is it so important to take control? The sad and honest truth is - because you don’t trust your staff or your coworkers. Or you might not be able to understand the result they produce if you don’t get it presented the way you are used to….but I believe you’re smarter than that! 

I will write more about this interesting subject but now you will get 7 keys to a successful non-controlling leadership:

  1. Make sure you understand the goal - what you are going to accomplish. Describe it, visualize it and present it to yourself before you present it to others.

  2. For every task, you add to your agenda you should ask yourself “how does this take me closer to my goal?”. The answer is often - it doesn’t. Remove it directly even if you might feel uncomfortable with it. Be brave! 

  3. Dare to use a “less is more” approach. Remember the 80 - 20 rule. You spend 20 % of your time to accomplish 80 % of the result. Be honest about the remaining 20 %. Is it worth 80 % of the team’s effort? 

  4. For every tool or template, you add you should ask yourself how it adds to the result - and dare to be honest. I saw a folder with subfolders to the subfolders to the subfolders.… It was presented as a good example of a documentation structure. The number of folders was higher than the number of documents it contained. Good or less good? 

  5. Ask yourself if you trust your staff. If you do they can take responsibility if you just present the goal to them. Dare to admit that they are smarter or more competent than you. Because they are - at least in some areas (if you are not one of those very rare superpersons). So they can actually find better solutions than you i.e. controlling them will lead to an inferior result. This is the trickiest area of all for many managers, the failure rate is high - so be brave and strong!

  6. Never have a meeting where you question what people have accomplished - always wow the progress! If you criticise publicly you make people scared and they will produce less next time. You can talk about “the less good progress” in private via positive and constructive questions.

  7. Feel the joy and freedom of trusting your staff and being out of control! You will be watching your staff taking responsibility and deliver fantastic results! 

If you don’t believe in what I say - I’d love to hear your view!

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Do you know what people know?

How can you possibly know what people know without asking? Of course, some people tell you but most don't. Do you ask people if they have gotten your message - if they have understood? The honest answer is no in most cases. Mos of us either donät like to make other feel stupid or don't like others to make us feel stupid. Some of us don't like either or.

 

We are not afraid to ask our children very basic control questions - over and over again. They call it nagging. Some of us do the same with our spouses but far too seldom do we dare to ask the simple control questions at work or in business.

Have you for example hired someone to fix your pluming or do some building for you and ended up getting the wrong result or the wrong price? I am pretty sure the answer is yes. We don’t like to ask silly questions and show how little we know. Silly since we are not expected to be plumbers or builders. 

How about at work? We don't want to embarrass people by questioning if they have heard and understood. But what if they were thinking about their sick mother, were checking an email or were dreaming about the next holiday just when you were saying those most important things? You can’t really see what people are thinking and the only safe way to confirm that a message has gone through is to ask and check.

I had a very interesting business meeting where I had very limited knowledge compare to all the others. I was at the same time supposed to prepare a structured and easy to understand documentation for the decision process. It was really difficult to get an understanding. At a very late stage I got a feeling I had all through the process confirmed - that they really did not understand! I had not dared to ask the basic questions since I was the one without the expertise. Should I question their knowledge? Well actually I should have because somewhere during the process, long before I joined, a few steps in a change process had not been communicated in an ideal way. Afterwards I can see how a few basic questions to verify the starting point and a couple of control questions in each meeting probably had made a big difference that might have led to a success instead of a mediocre result.

In another business meeting where I knew more but the Managers attending my meeting were on a very high level in the organisation and I was new as a Management Consultant I was so much braver. I actually explained basic accounting to them to make sure that the complicated effects of taxes and currency transactions were understood. Afterwards my colleagues at Ernst & Young did almost not believe that I had dared to be as basic as that with such important people. Result? Several of them stated “now I understand” and that was one reason I continued to have new assignments for them for many years. Dare to be basic and if you have the feeling the question might be too simple - ask it anyway! 

Do I need to be reminded to ask simple basic questions? Yes almost daily.

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Decision making?

How do people make decisions? Does it differ between business decisions and private decisions?

I study (and sometimes suffer from) inferior decision making processes almost every day and after quite a few years of experience I decided to share this: 

  • Decisions are made based on the need of being right - and to prove it!
  • If a decision is made and later proven wrong it will not be changed!
  • If a suggestion is presented by someone with authority it is most likely to be decided no matter how badly it is under built 
  • If the suggestion is presented together with other possible alternatives giving the decision makers a good basis for making a well based decision it is probable that there will be no decision made. Better to just present the suggestion you want to get decided.
  • If you are the one taking the consequences of the decision (which the presenter of the solution probably isn’t) the suggestion is more likely to be a good one.
  • If the best decision might lead to conflicts it is likely that another decision will be made. 
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So the best way to get something decided is to present the suggestion with authority, if you don’t have it - get someone to do the presentation for you. Don't present any alternatives and if you are not totally sure that you are willing to pay for the consequences of the decision - run the fastest you can out of there and don't look back. Just make sure you get paid before leaving. 

When it comes to private decisions they are more likely to be clever since you almost always take the consequences if they are wrong and benefit if they are right. If business decisions were made more like private decisions (maybe if we exempt decisions about love and children…) I dare to say we would have much more profitable companies, more effective organisations and definitely more happy employees. 

Private decisions are made:

  • Based on the expected outcome
  • Based on how your surrounding is affected
  • The cost/price of the decision
  • Based on analysing all possible solutions (maybe sometimes too much analysing)

If you have to make a quick decision in private life you do - you never even consider postponing it if you will suffer from waiting. How is it done in business? If you don't know I will not tell you….

Is this a way for me to tell the world that I aim for a position as decision maker? Definitely!!