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Be Careful What You Wish For

Being a leader in business and life means adopting a certain point of view about people, circumstances, opportunities and challenges. It means being oriented around conversations that generate and empower new possibilities and action, rather than cynicism, resignation and excuses about all circumstances. It means always being the champions for “what’s possible” and “how can we make it work” rather than “why we can’t” and “why it won’t work”.

Every point of view or paradigm is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Have you ever noticed that when we have a point of view that something isn’t possible we always gather evidence and proof in our circumstances and environment to support and prove that point of view? And, if we happen to change our mind, even 180 degrees, and adopt a different point of view, we instantly can find new evidence and proof in the exact same environment and circumstances for our new point of view?

We often say “I can’t believe what I see”. But, in fact we don’t believe or disbelieve what we see. We see what we believe or disbelieve. We don’t really see with our eyes, we see with our paradigm or point of view. That’s why two people can participate in the same “physical” circumstance or situation and experience it drastically differently, often contradicting.

In our work and life we are always invested in proving right one point of view or another. Sometime we do it consciously, but more often we do it unconsciously. It’s the nature of being human.

I often interact with people who have a negative or cynical point of view about areas that are important to them in their work or personal life.  They seem to strongly believe that “they can’t have it all” or “they will never fully get what they want” or “things won’t simply workout smoothly and great for them.” And, unintentionally they constantly prove that point of view right. I can see it in their attitude and hear it in their conversations: every time things don’t work out great for them they say or imply “you see, I knew it.” or “you see I told you so.” And, every time something great does happen to them they view it as a “one off” and they are “cautiously optimistic” at best about their fortune.

Most people, including very successful and accomplished people, tend to be more skeptical and even cynical about “having it all.” They often explain their point of view as “being realistic”.

However, there are people who stand for a drastically different point of view. Their genuine life view is that “I can have it all,” “I can have my work and life be extraordinary with no compromise.” And, their life is about validating and proving that point of view right. Every time something significant or insignificant happens to them that is consistent with their point of view they “high five” it and think or say “See, life works.” And every time they don’t get what they want they view it as “temporary” or a “one off,” and they try to learn something worthwhile from it to strengthen their point of view.

One of my clients is the recently appointed CEO of a known brokerage company. He took on a significant change initiative to elevate his company from seventh to one of the top four companies in his market place. In a recent bid for a mega deal his team lost the bid after making it to the final short list of two contestants out of eight. While many of his team members seemed discouraged by the loss, he felt extremely proud and encouraged by the fact that his team made it that far. For him the fact that his team made it to the top two only signified proof that they were in fact on track to achieve their goal.

If you accept the premise that we are constantly proving right our points of view, and therefore our points of view are always self fulfilling prophecies, you have a choice about what point of view you will prove right in your work and life. Contrary to what many people may think there are no “right,” “true,” or “correct” points of view. There are only “empowering” or “disempowering” ones; points of view or paradigms that enable more possibilities, ideas and dreams, and ones that shut down possibilities, ideas and dreams, and explain and justify why these can’t and won’t come true.

I stand for the point of view that everyone deserves and can build a life that reflects the point of view of “having it all” and “fulfilling all our most precious commitments and dreams.”  So, my own professional and personal life is about proving that point of view right.

What point of view are YOU proving right in YOUR life? 

Photo by: John Liu

Do less. You’ll be able to achieve more!

In my line of work I attend many business meetings, and many of them look like this: people sit around the table with their laptops or iPads open. There are relatively brief moments where everyone is deeply present, listening, paying attention and engaged in the conversation. Most of the time people are sporadically engaged but mostly working on their computers, iPads or smartphones responding to emails and focusing on other work related things.

Most people who work in organizations seem to feel that they have to attend too many meetings and that many, perhaps most of these meetings are too long and not productive. In fact, many times people say that most meetings are a waste of time.

Why is this the case?

I often ask my clients why their meetings are not productive. Many people attribute this to the fact that “people are not engaged and invested in the conversation because they are too distracted by other multi tasking activities.” Many also say that the reason they continue to do emails and work during the meeting is because “the meeting isn’t that productive or relevant to them.” This sounds like a vicious circle and self-perpetuating predicament.

In many cases people also say that “their manager is the biggest offender of doing emails and other work while in meetings, so this sets the mode and standard for less effective meetings.” When I have further asked why people don’t simply close their computers and devices in meetings in order to fully concentrate on the discussions at hand, many said that the reason is “with all the resource constraints they now have to do the work of two people”.

In today’s economy, the challenge of doing more with less is definitely more prevalent in corporations than ever. However, the strategy of “multi-tasking” as a solution is simply the wrong answer.

All this is true in our personal lives too: Have you ever noticed that when a friend or a family member is concentrating on a mobile device or computer while in a conversation with you, these conversations become intermittent, repetitive, unfocused and unproductive?

Our three kids (14, 21 and 25) act like it is normal to text, tweet, instagram and social network while talking to us, their friends, and others. This is the norm today among kids, teenagers and young adults. But, I recently read an article that indicated that the kids of today retain and remember less information because they rely so heavily on the internet. What is clear is that the more parallel demands we place on our brain and focus, the less productive we are, the more stressed we are, and the longer it takes to do the work.

Even though we’ve learned to accept this reality, at time it still causes inter-generational tension because its simply unacceptable for my wife and I to communicate and connect this way. In fact, on a recent carpool trip, it was amusing to see my youngest daughter with her three girlfriends, sitting side by side and texting each other rather than speaking.

At first we tried to impose clear rules around the use of phones and other devices, to make sure our kids balance their social networking with being present at family time and homework; otherwise they would never take their eyes off their phones. We had partial success. But, we didn’t give up. We all pledged to close our phones in all family dinners and social events. This has already made a difference in the quality of our quality time together as a family.

Please don’t understand me wrong, I have nothing against these marvelous devices– in fact, I own many of them, and love using them. But what today’s kids, teenagers, and business managers often fail to see is the cost of their multitasking on the entire spectrum of things that matter to them, from productivity in school and work, to intimacy with family and friends.

If you want to achieve greater, more complex and extraordinary things with higher quality, slow down and focus: you’ll get there much faster.

And as a bonus, you’ll be a happier, healthier person. That’s something you and your family can enjoy, at your leisure.

Are you counting your blessings or focusing on what’s missing?

In the previous blog I talked about how the rat race to achieve more and meet our life objectives often prevents us from being present and living our life in the moment.  

This is a very common modern life dilemma that many ambitious and successful people face: how to set exciting goals in all areas of our life, work hard to realize them (because that is what it takes), and while doing that fully enjoy the journey, not just the destination.

How do we slow down enough while we are going so fast?  

How to grow as many roses as we want AND also stop and smell them on a regular basis?

This has definitely been one of my life learning curves. I am a visionary and an ambitious person. I have big dreams aspirations in all areas of my life: professionally, in business, financially, staying healthy and fit, having an amazing marriage with my wife of 30 years, and deep closeness with my 3 kids and extended family. I want to ‘have it all’ and I want to be present and enjoy my journey as I go through it, not just when I get there “someday”.

My wife Na’ama has made a huge difference in keeping our focus and awareness on our accomplishments and how blessed we are, in all areas. The conversation of gratitude has become an integrated part of our family life because Na’ama has been a relentless champion for this. She constantly reminds each of us, especially when we face adversity, how lucky and blessed we are in our life. She always helps us shift our focus from what’s missing, wrong, and not working to what IS working and what we feel grateful for.

Several years ago we started a practice of ending each day with ten minutes of writing down (journaling) the answers to the question: “What are four things I accomplished today? and “What are four things I feel blessed and I am grateful for today?” Even if we had a bad day, or felt that we didn’t accomplish anything we still answered these questions.

What I learned from this process was that I had an abundance of things to claim as accomplishments, and an abundance of things that I feel blessed and grateful for. In fact I had many more than 4 each day. And, the more I focused on accomplishments the easier it became to find them and the more fortunate, empowered and energized I felt. Standing in that space enabled me to accomplish even more.

Our writing practice compelled us to have more conversations on a regular basis about what we are accomplishing and what we feel blessed and grateful for. The ‘counting our blessing’ conversation became a daily affair, and as time passed it infected our kids and close friends as well.

As Fr. D’sousa wrote – the events, obstacles and ups-and-downs of our life should not keep us from living our life to its fullest, now. On the contrary – our day-to-day journey, no matter how good or bad, contains in it an abundance of small, medium and large victories, accomplishments and things to feel blessed about.

Living courageously means highlighting these accomplishments, embracing our fortunes and allowing ourselves to be inspired by our own life every minute and day.

If the ideas and practices that I shared in this blog resonate with you I encourage to try them on and share what you learned from that.

If you feel that you are great at living the moment – please share what you do to live in that space.

Space of Possibility

Over the last few weeks, I have written much about the differences between Warriors and Worriers, positioning them as distinct opposites. But the truth is that Warriors do occasionally worry. And Worriers sometimes act courageously. From time to time, we step over that line to the other side, but we all live mostly on one side or the other.

The difference between the space where Warriors live and the space where Worriers is possibility.

Worriers are bound by past limitations. They tend to believe that their future prospects are constrained by past events and predicaments. They often allow themselves to remain stuck in the past, because it’s more familiar and safer that way. Doing what they’ve always done requires no vulnerability, no courage, and little to no exposure or risk. Worriers live in the space of “limited or no possibility.”

Warriors, however, live in a place of possibility. They honor the past and learn from it, but they continue to look towards the future and think about what could be, what they want, and what they are committed to achieving. And they take ownership for making it happen. This is a much more empowering, free, and courageous way of thinking.

People always vacillate between these two spaces. We choose the side where we’ll live, but we occasionally blip into the other side. When Worriers blip into the space of possibility, they often respond with sarcasm, defensiveness, and cynicism. I often see this in organizations. When change initiatives are launched, Worriers are typically the first to criticize, find the flaws, and say “This, too, shall pass.”

When Warriors blip to the other side, they typically experience mental and even physical pain. They feel like they have not been true to themselves, so they get back to their rightful side as quickly as possible.

Here’s an example: One of my clients, who typically is a very bold and courageous leader, recently called me because he was quite upset about the way he conducted himself in an important meeting the day before. Apparently, he promised to backup one of his colleagues in a critical presentation to the board for a new idea. Their department was seeking to get investment for its implementation. The meeting didn’t go well, and when it was his opportunity to speak up he held back and didn’t live up to his promise. He was devastated with his own behavior. In fact he shared with me that he couldn’t sleep that entire night. After our brief conversation he picked up the phone and called his colleague. He took responsibility for his lack of courage and support, apologized to his colleague and received forgiveness. He called me again later that day feeling completely restored, freed up and energized.

When Warriors screw up, act harshly, offend someone or act in any way that is inconsistent with they commitment, they are much more inclined to pick up the phone to that person, apologize and patch things up. This is the way they return back to their rightful side when they blip for the Warrior into the Worrier space.

We all vacillate from one side to the other. The question is: Where do you live? Where’s home? And if home is in the Worrier space, are you perhaps ready to move?

Develop Your Warrior Muscle (Part 2)

In last week’s blog, I wrote about how Warriors either “love” (or own) what they do or they “leave” it. This doesn’t mean they give up easily. In fact, Warriors stay true to their vision. They may change their course of action, but they seldom quit.

Warriors are very resourceful. While Worriers often see others as obstacles, pains in the you-know-what, or necessary evils they must deal with, Warriors typically view others as potential resources, allies, or partners. Warriors are not shy about admitting when they don’t know something or when they need help. They acknowledge others’ superior skills, experiences, and track records, and they ask these people for coaching and guidance. This is because Warriors are more concerned with fulfilling their visions than pretending to have it all together and looking good.

One thing that repeatedly surprises me in my work with organizations is how much time and energy many people spend on covering their behinds. Time and time again I see people spending more time and energy making sure everyone knows issues are not their fault than they do figuring out how to fix these issues. That’s why, in most organizations, people CC everyone on their e-mails.

Warriors and Worriers also deal with success differently. Worriers don’t let successes in. They don’t embrace and own their accomplishments and greatness. Why? Because if they did, they might have to admit they are capable of being Warriors, which would require them to start living with greater courage, passion, and sense of possibility. And that’s a scary prospect for many people.

Worriers rarely acknowledge or recognize other people’s accomplishments, success, and greatness. They often view life as a competition in which the more they elevate others by highlighting their greatness, the smaller they become in comparison. So, they refrain from generously and courageously recognizing others.

Warriors, on the other hand, acknowledge and celebrate their own success, as well as that of others, whenever they can. Understanding that success invites success, they always look for opportunities to highlight progress and accomplishments. Yet, they strive to remain humble and centered in their vision, rather than arrogant about their achievements. And they don’t expect to be perfect. In fact, their mantra is to constantly drive progress, not perfection.

Warriors also tend to be more generous when acknowledging and recognizing other people’s accomplishments. They view the world as abundant with opportunities and the people around them as allies, so they don’t feel threatened by the success of others. In fact, they believe that being in the presence of great people only enhances their own greatness.

As I stated in one of my earlier blogs, being a Warrior is like any other skill. To develop a Warrior mindset, you must commit to this way of being and regularly exercise those muscles.

People often think that they believe what they see. However, the truth is that we see what we believe. Our attitudes and expectations often become self-fulfilling prophecies, and we are usually able to gather evidence to support our points of view. So, if we are going to prove something right, why not prove right stuff that empowers us?

Do You Have a Team of Warriors … or Worriers?

Even the most technologically-advanced visionaries are reminded that people are still irreplaceable.

I work with teams that are located in one city, where everyone works on the same floor of the same building, and yet they don’t trust each other or collaborate well together. I also work with globally-dispersed teams who rarely see each other in person, and yet they function with high levels of trust, purpose, collaboration, and intimacy.

So, what determines the effectiveness of team dynamic?

At the simplest level, it boils down to people’s attitudes, mindsets, and dedication to the game, as well as their relationships to themselves and their colleagues.

We all have our own unique style and brand – a distinct personality, mindset, and attitude. We often say similar things using different words. We approach problems differently and think about things from different perspectives. Put simply, we go about business doing things in a way that is fluent with our own style.

There are countless flavors of styles, but they can be divided into two categories:

  • Worriers: Those whose attitudes and mindsets are negative, cynical, disempowering, discouraging, undermining, and weakening.
  • Warriors: Those whose attitudes and mindsets are positive, empowering, energizing, motivating, exciting, and inspiring.

The more team members you have in one category or the other, the more the dynamic of your team will swing in that direction. So, if you’ve got a team of Worriers, it’s going to be a very cynical and un-energizing environment. Victim mentality breeds in this environment. People often play the blame game, make justifications and excuses, throw others under the bus when things go wrong, and argue about who is right and who is wrong rather than focusing on what’s best for the project or company. It may sound as if I am exaggerating or describing a uniquely-dysfunctional environment. However, most teams – even really effective ones – seem to have these dynamics in their DNA.

On the other hand, if your team is made up of Warriors, they’ll make sure everybody genuinely owns the game, shares thoughts and ideas, and engages in the open, honest, authentic, courageous, and effective conversations that make a difference. In this environment, people tend to talk (not bicker) about the tough stuff – the things that don’t work. Team members are less concerned with who gets credit or blame, and the focus on how to fix and improve things is based on a shared vision and the company’s mission.

While Worriers complain, suffer, and engage in “would have, could have, should have” conversations, Warriors don’t dwell on problems. Instead, they say, “What do we do now?” In the face of challenges or stress, they get innovative and resourceful – and they get things done. This dynamic is much more nourishing and empowering than one made up of Worriers.

So, what do you do if you’ve got a team of Worriers? How do you shift their negative mindset and help them become more Warrior-like? Stay tuned for next week’s blog, when I’ll answer these questions and more.

We’re Halfway Through 2013—But Did You Ever Really Complete 2012?

There’s a distinct difference between ending something and completing it. Events in the physical world have a beginning, middle and end to them – whether we like it or not. We get older. Another year passes. And our lives keep moving forward, towards an eventual ending point.

Similarly, there is a physical rhythm to our professional year that is beyond our control. In a way, we’re passengers in time. The year ends, a new year begins, and the sand in the hourglass keeps trickling down.

Completion is different. Completion is a mindset, a paradigm, and a way of viewing our efforts, achievements, successes and failures in the most empowering way.

We have no control over the fact that 2012 is now over and that we’re already halfway through 2013, but we do have full say about our relationship to what happened in the previous year, including what we delivered and what was accomplished We also have control over the conclusions and lessons we will take with us from the previous year into the next.

So here we are in June of 2013. But many of us have never really taken the time to complete 2012.

To bring closure to last year and fully prepare yourself and your team for the rest of 2013, consider the following questions–starting with some basic facts. In 2012:

  1. What results did you promise or want to deliver?
  2. What results did you actually achieve?
  3. What objectives did you deliver, and what promises did you keep?
  4. What objectives and promises did you not deliver/keep? Where did you and/or your team fall short?

Once you have embraced the hard facts, take a look at some of the bigger-picture aspects of 2012:

  1. What did you accomplish in 2012 beyond your targeted results? It’s important to honor and even celebrate what got accomplished, even if it seems small or “not enough.”
  2. How did you forward your bigger vision and purpose (whether you made all your numbers or not)?
  3. In what areas and in what ways did you get stronger? What “muscles” If you post the piece about building your warrior muscle before this blog, then you could link to it here.and new competencies did you develop? What did you learn to do – by choice or by necessity – that will make you stronger and better in the future?
  4. What valuable lessons did you learn from your successes and/or failures? This is particularly relevant and important in tough years – which can make us stronger and better prepared for future chapters.
  5. How did your successes and/or failures in 2012 better prepare you for greater success in 2013?
  6. What can you commit to in 2013 and beyond, given all that occurred and all that you learned in 2012?

The beauty of completion is that it enables and empowers us to draw out the opportunities, learning and gold from everything that happened in the past. By viewing our past deeds and achievements through the lens of “completion,” we can foster a continuous path of personal development, growth and fulfillment.

When we end a year without completion, we often feel somewhat “stuck” and not quite ready and excited to move forward. However, when we take the time to complete each year, we experience a powerful sense of harmony, confidence and calmness. We feel empowered, ready and excited about moving on to the next chapter.

So go ahead and complete 2012, and keep what you have learned in mind, because 2014 will be here before you know it.