Huddle up

When you look at this picture, what do you see?

Café Il Mondo Pizzeria

I see a place of great potential, possible anywhere you can surround a table, any table, with some chairs. With any seats at all… we seem to sit on overturned buckets and coolers quite a bit here in Hawai‘i!

I see the possibility of sitting down, and having all kinds of talking story discussions. I see having coffee. I see breaking bread. I see tearing out flip chart pages, and laying them flat where everyone can keep drawing on them, and keep talking about their images, words and ideas.

I see Wow! Projects starting to happen in a very natural way, pulling in the participants they’re meant to pull in, and others too, people pulled into the action by the energy magnet you have created… chairs get kicked back at times like those. They get pushed away so people can stand as their excitement propels them to their feet, and so more people can get closer, standing side-by-side, and not behind the gate-keeping protection the chair may have started with. A comfort zone opens up. It doesn’t matter if you were there in the very beginning, or jumped in later.

But there has to be that beginning. Someone has to start.
Why not you?

Don’t waste the potential of any table or circle of seats you have in your workplace.
Use them today.
Invite others to convene with you, to converse. To go wayfinding.

Do it right now. Why wait?

Ideas are fragile, and inspiration is perishable.
Conversation is easy.

Having their Morning Coffee

Managing Strengths and not Standards

I hate job descriptions. What we need instead, are strength descriptions.

Here’s what I mean, using my own story as an example.

One way I’ll surprise people, is with my honest self-assessment in regard to customer service; I’m strong as a customer service trainer, particularly in Ho‘okipa (the value of generous hospitality), but I’m not skilled in serving customers myself. I can teach those skills, and even coach people in using them, far, far better than I can do them myself. Yet I was able to forge a very successful career in the ‘Hawai‘i hospitality business’ where the expectation is that “first and foremost: we serve customers.”

That’s not to say I have a different philosophy personally, or that I’m being hypocritical or duplicitous in any other way. I knew the actual delivery of good customer service was a personal weakness for me, so I compensated for that, by working in other areas of service where my strengths were actively in play.

Translucent Strength

My strengths were in working with employees, peers, and other managers, and not in serving customers. The personal service I excel with as Mea Ho‘okipa, a customer service provider, is given to others in contextual relationships specific to co-working — to internal customers rather than external ones. I will never, ever be a sales person, unless I’m ‘selling’ someone on the fit of a good job for them within my Ho‘ohana coaching.

My story is not an unusual one. In his book, Go Put Your Strengths to Work, Marcus Buckingham tells us about Christine, a trainer in southern California:

“Like each of us, Christine has a number of distinct strengths. One of them is that she is invigorated by training trainers to be better. She loves nearly every aspect of the teaching process. She loves seeing the satisfaction a trainer feels when his students excel and the growth in his own confidence as he becomes more comfortable with his material. She has a third eye for fine distinctions, for the subtleties in how a trainer presents information and why those nuances make a big difference in turning students’ confusion into understanding.”

“Interestingly, she’s not particularly adept at doing what she’s training her trainers to do. Sit her down in a room with five senior trainers who want to dive into the details of program design, and she excels. But increase those numbers to twenty-five, turn the trainers into students, and tell Christine to hold their attention for a full day’s training, and she’s mediocre.”

“She’s not invariably a great teacher, yet she’s a great teacher of teachers. It may seem a bit strange, but most of us, when you look closely, have a combination of strengths and weaknesses that is not entirely predictable.”

“Strange or not, the challenge for Christine and her manager, is to figure out how to exploit this great strength for the benefit of the company. They have a lot to talk about.”

Those are the kinds of conversations we don’t have often enough in the workplace. One problem is the on-going challenge of making time for them — it’s the problem we try to solve in part, with the Daily Five Minutes, converting found opportunities into more productive ones.

However there’s a deeper problem in play; and that’s the expectation of managers. It’s an expectation which puts blinders on us. We’ll often expect employees to conform to standardized expectations (i.e. Job Descriptions) instead of personalized ones — the Ho‘ohana work which suits their spirit, innate talents, and strengths.

The expectation of conformity is as foolish as watering a seed and expecting it to bloom into an animal or piece of machinery.

Red Stems

We fail to have conversations about what people are strong at, and about the proficiencies they’ll truly shine at when we figure out how to stage them, because we spend way too much time talking about OUR standards for their performance instead. We work at fitting employees into our molds for them, and into our preconceived views of what the world of work should look like — even when we’ve begun to realize how dysfunctional that picture has become.

I was far happier, and far more productive for my employer, when my manager didn’t force me into the customer service roles I wasn’t suited for, whether to pay my dues, prove to the rest of the team that I could do it, or some other misguided reason. It wasn’t that I didn’t like customers, or felt that the work was below me. I wasn’t intimidated by it, and didn’t need to learn more. It just didn’t motivate me or reward me as much as other work did. I could go through the motions, choosing the all the right motions, but calling upon deeper passions with them was like trying to squeeze water from a sponge that is completely dry.

Customers could tell too. They never had a complaint about my customer service, but I didn’t routinely knock their socks off with it either. Not good enough for them, and not good enough for me.

However here is where I was extremely lucky: My bosses were not stubborn and unreasonable. When I showed them what I could do, doing it better, and in a way that filled another need of the business, they turned me loose and let me go for it.

And this is an important point: They did not have to create a new gig for me. All they had to do was not hold me back, and support me in figuring it out for myself, so I could find my own answers.

Peeling Petals

So, Mr. and Ms. Manager, what are the expectations you honestly have of your own staff? How can you honor their strengths, and share your savvy with workplace design by compensating for their weaknesses in smarter, and more respectful ways?

Here’s more from the story in Buckingham’s book: As he explains, Christine actually IS director of program development at a training company. Her job is to design the training programs, and then, once they have been sold to a company, to deliver them:

“They have a lot to talk about. Together, Christine and her manager have to figure out how to design a train-the-trainer product based on her strengths, how to market it, price it, and select a specific group of clients on which to focus it. They have to decide what kinds of materials are necessary and whether Christine is the right person to create them. They have to decide the optimal number of trainees Christine is capable of working with and how frequently she should check back in with them to assess their competence.”

“These are the kind of details that will determine just how productive Christine’s strengths are at work. Given how critical her performance is to the entire company, she and her manager should be talking about them all the time.”

You have heard my story, and Christine’s. Now think of someone you are managing. What are the strengths they bring to the job, and what are the specific details your conversations can address? What are their needs, in having you coach and support them?

Do this assessment for each and every one of the direct reports you have, and do it consistently. Don’t you dare give them a performance appraisal on the wrong expectations.

These are not difficult questions. Managers know the answers in the context of their workplace. The bigger question is if they are focused on them, and on the right expectations to begin with.

~ Some Archive Aloha which might help ~
But please; do answer the question before you move on to more reading.
Make this coaching relevant to you!

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Book Review: Do the Work

Do the WorkDo the Work by Steven Pressfield

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A Short Review

Do the Work is one of those short, “Here’s a helpful kick in the behind, so you won’t feel you’re all alone” kind of books. You can breeze through it in one sitting to know what it’s about (as I did one evening), and then keep it on your Kindle to go back to whenever you do need that kick instead of wallowing in any “Woe is me” waste of time. Lord knows we all need that kick sometimes.

This particular kick focuses on giving the reader a how-to, one with pushing through their own resistance and any lack of confidence when facing a work project.

From the Publisher’s Synopsis:

Could you be getting in your way of producing great work? Have you started a project but never finished? Would you like to do work that matters, but don’t know where to start?

The answer is Do the Work, a manifesto by bestselling author Steven Pressfield, that will show you that it’s not about better ideas, it’s about actually doing the work.

Do the Work is a weapon against Resistance ”“ a tool that will help you take action and successfully ship projects out the door.

“There is an enemy. There is an intelligent, active, malign force working against us. Step one is to recognize this. This recognition alone is enormously powerful. It saved my life, and it will save yours.”

Short books can be the hardest ones to write well, and I think Pressfield did a great job with this one.

He says his coaching can be applied to much more than writing (his area of expertise as a novelist), and I would agree that it can, however Do the Work will really resonate with anyone who writes as their work of choice; it is perfect for the work of writing in the way it matches writing content with work project movement in his “Three Act Structure.”

Very timely reading for me, since I’m currently within “the belly of the beast” with a writing project of my own.

The Domino Project Incentive

Do the Work has already gotten quick distribution thanks to Seth Godin’s Domino Project, and the “Read it now!” incentive is that a GE sponsorship has resulted in it being offered on Kindle for free: Advertising has come to the ebook. It’s nice to save the cash, however after reading it, I think having it on your Kindle library is the best placement for it anyway – even if you don’t have an actual Kindle, but read via the app on your smart phone (which an amazing amount of people do these days.) More to think about within this particular Talking Story project sharing: Qualify the Automatics.

The Domino Project itself is an interesting new business model. Their first book was Seth Godin’s Poke the Box ~ here is my book review on that one: Are you the box needing a poke? ~ and Pressfield is their follow up act, with Do the Work as book 2 in their publishing queue (and their proof-in-the-pudding that they are a true publisher playing in the new game, and not just more packaging for Seth Godin.)

Pressfield is not an unknown in need of their help, and he brings them much creative credibility in his own right. Here is an exceptional interview hosted by Mark McGuinness on Lateral Action in May of 2010; The War of Art: An Interview with Steven Pressfield, in which he explains why he chose the subject of Resistance for his only two non-fiction books:

The most important mental breakthrough in my career was simply the recognition that there is such a thing as Resistance. Once I realized that those lazy, whiny, insidious voices in my head were not “me,” but Resistance masquerading as “me” ” I could dismiss them and overcome them. I could turn pro.
~ Steven Pressfield

View all my reviews on Goodreads.

Why Goodreads? They have become an App Smart choice for me in 2011 for I want to return to more book reading, and have set a goal to read at least 36 books this year (this was book 14 for me). Read more about the Goodreads mission here, and let’s connect there if you decide to try it too! You can also follow them on Twitter.

Previous review: The Career Guide for Creative and Unconventional People by Carol Eikleberry

More Do the Work Resources

1. Visit Pressfield’s website, where he is currently hosting a category feature he calls Do The Work Wednesdays with posts which expand on his manifesto (which is more of what Do the Work actually is.) He’s written 3 posts so far, all which allude to the fact that there is much more to his short book than first appears to the reader:

  • The Foolscap Method
  • Three Act Structure
  • How Screenwriters Pitch

2. A book excerpt shared by Amber Rae on The Domino Project:

The enemy is Resistance”“our chattering brain, which, if we give it so much as a nanosecond, will start producing excuses, alibis, transparent self-justifications and a million reasons why we can’t/shouldn’t/won’t do what we know we need to do.

What are Resistance’s greatest hits? An excerpt from Do the Work, here are the activities that most commonly elicit Resistance:

1. The pursuit of any calling in writing, painting, music, film, dance, or any creative art, however marginal or unconventional.

2. The launching of any entrepreneurial venture or enterprise, for profit or otherwise.

3. Any diet or health regimen.

4. Any program of spiritual advancement.

5. Any activity whose aim is the acquisition of chiseled abdominals.

6. Any course or program designed to overcome an unwholesome habit or addiction.

7. Education of every kind.

8. Any act of political, moral, or ethical courage, including the decision to change for the better some unworthy pattern of thought or conduct in ourselves.

9. The undertaking of any enterprise or endeavor whose aim is to help others.

10. Any act that entails commitment of the heart—the decision to get married, to have a child, to weather a rocky patch in a relationship.

11. The taking of any principled stand in the face of adversity.

In other words, any act that rejects immediate gratification in favor of long-term growth, health, or integrity.

Or, expressed another way, any act that derives from our higher nature instead of our lower. Any of these acts will elicit Resistance.

I love Easter

Easter is unrestrained, enthusiastic abundance.
It’s a basket of treats which never gets empty if you look hard enough,
Look by closing your eyes and feeling what’s there.

I love all of it, and that there’s a lot to love.

Easter Expectations

I love the lead up of Lent and Good Friday (good Catholic girl that I am), and
I love the glory of the day when Easter arrives.
I love that we expect that glory, and that wonder.

I love the pastel colors, and even the fake Easter grass.

I love seeing the Peeps in the market, and
I love getting that craving for marshmallow, and for
Cadbury malt.

Eggy Snacking, the Black Peppery version

I love the Easter Eggs, and everything we do about them, and with them.
I love the decorating with homemade dyes, and
I love making bunny footprints with flour.

I love our creativity, and even our indulgence.

I love all the chocolate and all the sugar.
I love that I will eat Easter’s treats without a shred of hesitation or guilt.

Primed in pink

Oh! How I love the blooming.

I love the flowers — there are so many to love!

Good morning! Blushing tulips

I love the greenery too, both lush and still tender,
The leafing (is that a word?) that is everywhere.

I love the art.

Garrowby Hill

I love the playfulness that Easter critters inspire.

I love the chicks and bunnies, birds and butterflies.
I love them all showing us their softer sides,
All willing to become characters which are cartoons of themselves.

Even frogs wear Easter well.

When dark meets light

I remember how we made Easter bonnets in kindergarten.
Do you?

I wish
we all
still wore
Easter bonnets
now.
Crepe paper, feathers, ribbons and all.
And no matter how old we have become.
We could still wear them well… silly grins included.
(Those red hat ladies are on to something.)

Kanzashi ~ hair clip duet

I love that Easter happens in the Spring.
(especially when it happens in April, and not in March).

I love that Easter day means Easter Sunday.
Sunday is elemental peacefulness.
Sunday is thankfulness and gratitude.
Sunday is Mālama time.

Saint Augustine’s Church est.1884

I love our reverence on Sunday, and our humility.
Our awe.
Our respect.
And Ha‘aha‘a as a value that looks like laughing no matter how you pronounce it.

I love the Palena ‘ole exuberance of Easter.
I love the joy of its Ka lā hiki ola flavored promises.

Easter renews us.
It’s vibrant.
It’s hopeful.
It’s a beauty which is very, very good for us.

Like a yellow pinwheel :)

It’s even beauty in that plastic, yet amazing Easter cellophane;
Purple, yellow, pink, and a green that isn’t really green at all,
But some kind of cool bluing. Prisms.

I love that Easter is about Faith.
I love that Easter is about Believing.

It’s amazing resilience, and Resurrection, I know, but you know what else?
Easter is a day to love your life, just as it is.

Beautiful Hawaii

And yet,
Easter is also a day to think about flourishing in new ways.

So do that. Flourish.

Love Easter with me, and feel it love you back.

Botanical Cactus Garden at Ethel’s