April 19, 2010

Asking for Help


When there's a choice between being too self-reliant and not self-reliant enough...I generally err on the self-reliant side. It's my basic wiring, and it was exacerbated by many years of having to do most of the heavy lifting in my life on a lot of levels.

PeerSupport Now, though, I have enormous practical and emotional support in all parts of my life - most especially from my dear Patrick, my wonderful business partner, Jeff, my long-time assistant, Anne, and my daughter, Rachel. And as I'm getting better at recognizing when I need support and accepting it when it's offered, I'm seeing all the benefits of asking for help.

Letting others share the load creates wonderful bonds of mutual respect and appreciation.  It allows you to benefit from others' strengths and skills as they benefit from yours.  It reinforces the reality that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts; that two or more people truly partnering and fully supporting each other can accomplish much more than the same number of people working individually.

I really enjoy Mary Jo Asmus' blog; she writes clearly and well, she talks about interesting stuff, and I find her insights illuminating.  I especially like today's post, about how to  ask for others' help when you're stuck on a problem or in a situation. It especially resonated for me, given my recent reflections on allowing myself to be supported....I thought you might enjoy it, too.

April 08, 2010

Being Strategic Goes on Air

FREE IS MY LIFE: FREE PBS Show Taping "Being Strategic" 4/23 5:30pm Wixom.

15453 Faithful readers - just wanted to share my excitement with you about this: on April 23rd, PBS will be taping an hour-long special with me, focused on the Being Strategic process and skills.

It will be aired in Detroit in June (10:30am June 6th, for any of you who are local), and then nationally starting in August.

I'm thrilled about having the opportunity to offer so many people these tools for creating the life they most want!

March 29, 2010

Oh wait - People Really ARE Our most Important Asset

I was just on a call this morning with the whole Proteus team - we have these calls once a month, to stay in touch, share what's happening with the business, keep each other in the loop about important topics.

At one point we were discussing what we've seen in the marketplace over the past few months: how our existing and potential clients are operating the same or differently as they come out of the recession, business trends we're seeing, etc.

One thing we all seemed to agree on: senior leaders are starting to behave as though hiring good people and providing the support they need in order to be most productive, challenged and satisfied, is a critical success factor for business.  In our experience, business leaders have been mouthing the people-are-our-most-important-asset mantra for years.  But over the past few months, we've seen a much larger proportion of people who seem willing to operationalize that sentiment by putting actual resources into finding out what their best people are looking for from the organization, and trying to give it to them: skill and knowledge development; clearer organizational vision and strategy, and how it translates into goals for their job; better performance management and career pathing; a culture that supports fresh thinking about products and processes; fewer organizational impediments to getting good results.

I'm not clear on the connection between the two: why companies should be more people-focused, post-recession.  I just know this what we're seeing.

What are you seeing?  And if it's similar to what we're describing, why do you think it's happening?

March 21, 2010


It's the official first day of Spring, and it's absolutely gorgeous. The daffodil shoots are inches higher than IMG_0096 they were just hours ago. And here's photographic proof: when we got to the house on Friday evening, the tree in this picture - I swear I am not making this up - had not yet begun to leaf out. 

Spring captures me every single time. Everything coming back to life, bursting free, struggling up to sun and air.  Patrick and I spent most of the day outside yesterday, preparing the garden beds, clearing away last fall's debris, deciding where to plant the seeds acquired over the winter. I love it.

I love designing things so they'll work beautifully. I love giving things the conditions they need to grow. I love watching things come to fruition. For me, the deepest satisfactions come from envisioning and then moving toward a hoped-for future.  So - how lucky am I?  I get to do that at home and I get to do it every day at work.

And Spring, my favorite season, is when the whole world madly and joyously clarifies-and-moves-toward-its-hoped-for-future!

March 12, 2010

Three Star Leadership Blog: What Women Want (at Work)

Three Star Leadership Blog: What Women Want (at Work).

A great post by my friend Wally Bock. I knew he was smart and insightful - I didn't know he was also an ardent feminist, in the best possible sense of the word.

I suspect having had a mother who was in business in the fifties and sixties might have been a major factor in his evolution in this regard.

He talks about the ways in which the playing field is still not level, and references some excellent blogs that focus on women's issues.

March 10, 2010

Painful Politics

Scarred by office politics, how do we move on? | Office-Politics.

If you're not familiar with Office-Politics, Franke James' wonderful website, I'd recommend it highly.  People write in (and have been writing in for almost 8 years) with their office politics dilemmas, and Franke or one of her group of advisors offer supportive and clarifying responses.

I'm honored to be part of Franke's advisor posse; this link is to a letter she had me answer a few weeks ago.  I thought you might find it useful - it's focused on how to recover and create a new, more productive and positive work environment after leaving a politically toxic one.

Franke is also the author of Dear Office Politics: The Game Everyone Plays.  It's fun + useful + realistic -- one of my favorite combinations.

March 09, 2010

A Great Excuse

Couples negril I'm posting this picture as the best possible rationale for not having posted to my blog for the past 10 days.  This is the resort in Jamaica where Patrick and I spent my birthday week. It was, by a huge margin, the best birthday present I've ever gotten.

We missed the worst of the storm of '10, as well. Good all around.

I'll write an actual post tomorrow, mon.

February 26, 2010

Being Strategic = ?

I have a Google alert on the phrase "being strategic," partly to see what's happening with my book, but partly because I find so fascinating all the disparate (and sometimes contradictory) ways people use those words.  Here's one I got this morning:

"InterActiveCorp’s dating website company Match.com has acquired Singlesnet. Singlesnet offers similar services as Match.com. Match.com sees the acquisition has having value rather than being strategic. SinglesNet will continue to operate as an independent company." 

What?  Strategic is the opposite of valuable?  If I dig down through this, it implies the writer is defining being strategic as "doing something solely to take out a competitor, vs. rather than as a direct benefit to your business."  This is an implied definition I've seen more and more lately: being strategic = being manipulative or aggressive...or even deceptive or inauthentic.  To that point, here's another of my Google alerts this morning, from someone's Tweet:

"Being strategic is too exhausting. If I love or hate you it will show. Wish more ppl were like that. I don't have the patience to fake it."

I find it irritating when perfectly good and useable words or phrases start being defined in limiting ways - like "feedback," which has come to mean "telling you something bad about yourself" (vs. "providing input") or "buxom," which has come to mean "fat" (vs. "curvy and voluptuous").

I'm sticking to my much more useful and actionable definition of being strategic:

Consistently focusing on those core directional choices that will best move you toward your hoped-for future.

February 21, 2010

Plan and Let Go

Today Patrick and I are making beer and bread. Both processes involve an approach that works well in lots of situations, I find.  First, you plan and prepare carefully, making sure you have the right materials, and combining them in a specific way, under optimal conditions.

Then, you let the ingredients work together to create a new thing. You stop messing around with them and allow them to combine and evolve.

Bread and beer In the case of bread, you measure and mix an activating agent (yeast or sourdough) with the proper ingredients - flour, water, some sweetener, oil, salt.  Then you knead it. 

Once you've done all that, you have to put it aside and trust that it's going to rise.

It's just like doing a vision and strategy session with a group.  I like to think that the group's felt need is the activating agent.  Then you put together the right ingredients - the right people in the room, the right information, the right process.  Then you knead it - that's where good facilitation comes in.

At that point, you have to let it go.  And if you've done everything well and carefully up till then, it will most likely evolve to create a new thing - a vision for the future, a sense of clarity and possibility about that future, and a feasible and practical map for getting there. Voila!  Sometimes it can seem almost magical.

I started this process with the editorial group at Newsday last week.  Because they're in a newsroom environment, where it's almost impossible to take two full days for this process, as we usually do, we're doing it in three 4-5 hour sessions, spread out over about 6 weeks. (We did it this same way last summer for the senior team at The Early Show, and it worked very well; so I felt pretty confident when I recommended this approach to the Newsday folks.)

We're early in the rising process...but I have a feeling this is going to be really tasty.

February 12, 2010

Blogging with Friends

Mary Jo Asmus.

There are a lot of fun, smart, interesting people online, and Mary Jo Asmus is one of them.

When I started The Simplest Thing three years ago, I had one goal: I wanted to publicize my first book, and people told me that having a blog was a good way to do it. Since then, I've discovered all kinds of other great benefits to blogging: it gives me a place to try out new thinking, I find out about other cool blogs from the comments I get, it gives me credibility in the online community, etc. etc.

But the thing I like most about blogging - and that has been an unexpected and delightful surprise -  is the human connection. There are a number of people I now consider friends, thanks to the internet, whom I have never met in person.  Wally Bock has offered tremendous support ever since we "met" shortly after Growing great Employees came out: he's a great guy and clear thinker, and I very much enjoy reading his blog and talking with him about leadership, organizations, and life in general.

Recently, he connected me with Mary Jo, a blogger and consultant in Michigan - he thought we'd resonate with each other, and he was right.  She and I had a great first conversation, and she suggested we do an interview about Being Strategic on her blog.

So, here's the result...hope you enjoy it!