Road Trip Logic

Road Trip Logic

We all know the old saying: “If everything is important, nothing’s important.” Hogwash, I say. Seriously! Because everything actually is important to somebody. And the problem with words is that they have more than meaning; they have feeling as well. If we say something is more important to do first, someone is likely hearing, “That means I am less important” — which is not true. So if it’s not about importance, what is it about? Priority. Which, I admit, has the potential for equal confusion. So let them work together to lift the weight of confusion. Top priority means what you need to do first, and frankly, that isn’t always the most important thing. Your project, Mark, might be “more important” by some measure, but Mary’s has a higher priority if it serves us better to do it first. Think of it as a road trip. You’re taking a vacation with your family, driving from Portland, Oregon to Orlando, Florida to go to Disneyworld! Yay!!! I can’t wait. But it’s a long drive, filled with possibility. You want to make a fun adventure out of this, and ask everyone to pick the side trip most important to them to hit along the way. Enthusiastically they respond: “The Grand Canyon!” “Music Hall of Fame in Nashville!”  “New York City!” “Mount Rushmore!” Alright, well, that’s a road trip, and in the immortal tone of Chandler from Friends, “Could these destinations BE more spread out?” So, I ask you, which is most important?  None of them! You value each person’s wish equally. Despite that, there is absolutely a logical order in which you’re going to hit these spots. You might start across the...
Tips To Start Journaling: Keep It Simple!

Tips To Start Journaling: Keep It Simple!

We’ve all heard about the benefits of journaling recently, haven’t we? You can do a quick Google search and get a TON of information about the value of this practice. You can also find a lot of how-tos and tips — almost too many, in fact. The information overload can be overwhelming.  I’m a huge fan of journaling, and I’ve seen firsthand the benefit it can provide. When you’re thinking about starting, don’t let yourself lose out on the opportunity because of the overflow of what-to-do’s. The simple way to start is to find what works for you, and then give yourself the freedom and forgiveness to be awkward and bored with it until it becomes natural. Because, yeah, it does start off a bit boring, especially if you’ve never done it before. Give yourself a break and allow that.  For me, a very small set of core questions to answer consistently can help. I like, “What am I grateful for today?” This is easy at the start, because we typically pick the low hanging fruit: spouse, kids, life, food…but once you run out of the obvious, it forces you to look deeper. That’s when you start to be grateful for the challenges, and the things that didn’t go so well, because you learn to see the gratefulness in the lesson. You start to see the opportunity it opened up to serve someone, or to make something right that then led to a better relationship. Another question might be, “What am I struggling with today?” Allow yourself to free-write your thoughts about it without judgement. This allows you to...
The Infrastructure of Communication

The Infrastructure of Communication

A few weeks ago we talked about how interconnected trust and communication are — each affects the other, and when they’re failing, you can quickly find yourself with a toxic work environment. But it’s worth noting that while broken trust will almost always break down communication, broken communication can sometimes be the result of something as simple as broken infrastructure.  One of the biggest problems in organizational communication is when people feel out of the loop. Actions are being taken and people who need to know are not being informed. We don’t know the things we “should” but, somehow, others know it, so we take offense — we might even perceive an intentional slight. For growing teams in particular this can feel overwhelming — it used to be just three of you in a garage, and communication was simple, real-time, thorough! But now it’s a team of twelve, and four of them are remote, and things are slipping through the cracks. But how do you fix it? First, which problem are you solving? Is the problem over-communication with people swimming in so much information they can’t distinguish what’s important from what’s just FYI? Or is it a case of so little communication people can go for weeks before hearing important updates? Either way, the answer, as with most things, is based in simplicity. Occam’s Razor states that if there are two explanations for an occurrence, the simplest explanation is usually the right one. Applied to solutions: in the face of any technical problem, the simplest tool is usually the most effective. Analyze what your needs are, and then find the tool...
How To Make Your Team Look Good

How To Make Your Team Look Good

My brother used to say that the secret to success is “Keeping your boss’s boss off of your boss’s a–.” Roughly translated: if you make your boss look good, you look good, and success is sure to follow. And as Derek Severs teaches us in this brilliant TED Talk, if something is true, its opposite can also be true. So what if we turned my brother’s wisdom around?  It’s hard to deny the logic in my brother’s thinking; after all, he retired a multi-millionaire in his early 50’s. But what does this thinking mean for leaders going in the other direction of the food chain? Try this: As a leader, your job is to make your leadership teams look good to the people who report to them. Consider communication as an example. If there’s a big announcement that affects the whole organization, should the CEO share it with the whole company all at once? Or should they just share it with their team leads, who in turn share it with their individual teams? At first blush, it might seem like the more obvious choice is to announce it to the whole company all at once. Why not? It’s more efficient, it makes sure the message gets delivered clearly, it skips unnecessary delays and bureaucratic layers…and sometimes it is absolutely the right thing to do. But not as often as many leaders seem to think. There are a few problems with this ‘obvious’ choice, especially for larger organizations where getting everyone together isn’t always easy. Some are in the office, others are on the road, some are on vacation, and if you have shift work it’s even more complicated. Everyone’s just not always together and it’s too easy for...
The Source of ALL Dysfunction

The Source of ALL Dysfunction

I work with a lot of teams, and I’ll be honest — people usually don’t call me in because things are going well. Which means, in my work, I see a lot of dysfunction. And in my experience, dysfunction is so very often caused by one of two things: 1) Broken communication, or 2) Broken trust. And here’s the rub: They’re unavoidably intertwined. Either can build or diminish the other. Great communication can easily build up trust, and deep trust can make up for poor communication. Likewise, bad communication can unintentionally impede trust through misconceptions and misrepresentations — and broken trust makes all communication, however executed, suspect. So, if they’re both so entrenched in the other, what can we do? Well, the good news here is you can use that to your advantage. Invest in one, and you’ll get double the return. Invest in both, and it will quadruple! (Okay, don’t check my math there, but you get the point). If your team is feeling tense, toxic, or just generally dysfunctional, addressing one or both of these can almost always help to get to the root of the problem. What communication systems can you add? Perhaps all you need is a tool like Slack or Teams to provide a forum in which information can be more effectively disseminated instead of email. Or perhaps you’re a leader who needs to get better at trusting your management teams and allowing them to speak on your behalf. The question is, how can you help the team connect and build trust? Would a communication workshop help? Perhaps it’s time to actually teach everyone how to communicate through NVC, or something...