Deliberate Inputs

Somewhat connected to my last posting, [ Must I work this bit alone? ] and to noticing, I’ve been tweaking the old brainwaves lately with more reading, for reading is a big part of what I think of as my “deliberate inputs.”

We need to feed our intellect with deliberate inputs similar to the way we eat to feed our bodies; we choose healthy foods that are nutritious, and foods that fortify us and fill us with energy.

These days, the old brain is hungry, craving some hopeful, positive ideas and solutions.

Good food starts with good ingredients:

Batter Mix To Go

Perhaps more today than ever before, my deliberate inputs are often chosen for their optimism, for negativity pulls me down into a gloom I prefer to stay far, far away from. Now this doesn’t mean I choose to dwell in a Pollyanna world, for I can read about bad news too. It’s the aftermath of the hearing or reading, and the follow-up in my own attitude which matters. We can learn from everything, whether the good, the bad, or the ugly — we have to choose our aftermath, and use our positive brainpower to shape it.

How you go forward will define your future, and the person you’ll be in that future.

For instance, within my deliberate inputs these days (for they constantly evolve) are:

  • The Daily Five Minutes and other conversations (always ‘MWA job one’ with me)
  • Reading more essays by ‘thought leaders’ (I’ve been culling my RSS feeds). I’m a big fan of blogs: People who blog write to think, and they set a great example in the sharing of virtual conversation
  • Book reading. I’m a way bigger fan of books — the good ones are hard to write; they package a lot of substantial thought process, and they pull in more research
  • Writing for its physical triggering connection (writing as a way of thinking things through)
  • Gratitude journaling for Mahalo-living, and to keep up my positive expectancies
  • ‘Imi ola Change Choosing — always important for me: Focus (in goal-setting) is another word for Intention
  • Weekly Reviews so I’m balanced between what I study, and what I actually do accomplish
  • Television only via DVR’d selections. News read online or in Sunday paper editions
  • I look for biographies and documentaries: They are ‘Ike loa’s ‘learning from people’ and from their experience

As electioneering ramps up here in America, I get very concerned about what Bill Davidow has called “Life in the Age of Extremes.” There is much ‘other possibility’ within the extreme polarity of being Republican or Democrat in ideology. We must all be working on our own Deliberate Inputs to interject more hope into life.

Being hopeful, can be a direct result of Ha‘aha‘a, the value of humility, and the way we’ve spoken of ‘finding decisions’ here at Talking Story: Can you see with your ears? How open-minded are you, and how willing are you to weigh the opinions of others? Much of it is about proactive listening, so you can choose to live with a greater confidence — it’s a confidence that you’ve uncovered and discovered the best answer, because you’ve gone looking for it. It’s cultivating an optimistic attitude which will align with your values, keeping positive expectancy in your life.

So much of this starts with being very choosy and deliberate about your own inputs.

I strongly encourage you to sit with this as a writing exercise of your own. I gave you a current listing of what I think of as my Deliberate Inputs: What are yours?

Listen well to be well, and start with good, healthy ingredients.

Postscript: On the reading front, if you’d like to come with me, and follow the rabbit trails of my finds, remember to check in with Ho‘ohana Aloha, my Tumblr — that’s where I tend to clip them.

Bonus Links: Read what Dan Oestreich has to say On Finding Confidence. He also wrote about polarity recently, in Contribution to Society.

Performance Reviews: There’s a much better way

Sat to talk story with a few managers who are currently facing their annual deadline with completing performance appraisals.

If you’re in corporate life you probably know the drill:
Performance reviews are conducted annually in one-on-one manager/employee appraisal meetings (and mandated), and managers are required to use a format designed by an HR office or some consultant, so consistent performance ratings can be used throughout the company for supposed equity in compensation levels — a poor reason for a bad process.

Employees hate it, and managers hate it, and yet scores of companies continue to uphold the practice. Pure yuck.

As you might guess from my tone so far, we don’t use that system in any of my Managing with Aloha-modeled businesses (we don’t have Job Position Descriptions either; we co-write individual Ho‘ohana Statements).

Do we review performance? Of course! The difference is that we do it constantly, coaching and mentoring on the job as the best possible context for having those conversations: Working on our Ho‘ohana is an everyday thing (and compensation is handled in another way as well). Thanks to opportunities furnished by The Daily 5 Minutes and our value-mapping practices, business partners (i.e. employees) are often the ones to initiate conversations on their performance with managers.

However I know that many managers have no choice but to comply with mandates, and like those I just coached, they have to work within the system they have until they are able to change it. Well, you CAN make improvements, making them work for you right now. Embrace your Systems Thinker: As we have learned, people can fix broken processes. Processes cannot fix broken-in-spirit people.

Here is what I advise.

Keep the good, get rid of the bad

In short: Turn your mandates into a positive and highly useful process.

  • Start with the basics of what you are required to do,
  • Improve the quality of those basics when done by your hand, and then
  • Build new improvements from there.

Here’s how.

1. Learn everything there is to know about your mandate. Good managers never wing it or fake it when it comes to putting anything in writing in regard to the performance of another human being. If you’re feeling somewhat powerless at this point in changing anything about the system as it now stands, imagine how your employees feel! They are counting on you: Hold yourself accountable for what is a profound responsibility.

Put your own manager or HR department to work for you, and get their coaching. Ask all your questions, and be crystal clear on the domino effect created by any appraisal form you complete: forms largely exist to expedite other processes.

2. Do your homework. If you’re working within a mandated system, you’re not alone. Chances are the employees in your charge have been reviewed before, and by others: Learn their history. I don’t necessarily recommend you use it (each situation is likely to have different variables requiring your judgment), but you should definitely be aware of it: you can’t build a new house (and culture of Aloha) without a solid foundation.

Second, put your feelers out for other managers who have a good reputation in your company (managing and leading with Aloha), and ask them to share any of their lessons learned with you: You may be pleasantly surprised in discovering great workarounds (legal ones) which already exist in your company culture.

3. Add some heart to add good energy. I cannot emphasize this enough: In “starting with the basics of what you are required to do” make the ‘official’ annual appraisal meeting a positive experience, helping without hurting. Do what you have to (more on this in the next section on timing) but be absolutely sure the annual appraisal itself ends on a high note: Positive and useful.

How can it be useful? Do have the appraisal focus on Ho‘ohana goal-setting, with action-specific goals that are achievable week to week (not year to year). Hō‘imi: Lay the groundwork for a near future flush with positive expectancy. Always remember that the energy of your people will fuel their capacity to perform magnificently going forward, and thus, it’s your greatest resource too: All other business assets flow from the performance energy of human beings. Your job as manager is to light those fires, not put them out.

4. Ace your timing. Until you can change the system itself, do whatever is required of you, by doing what you have to at the best possible time. If you have to deal with some negativity and have a conversation about poor performance, do so and do not avoid it. Be a good boss: Never shy from your opportunities to teach, facilitate, coach and mentor.

Corrective conversations do NOT have to occur during an annual appraisal: They should happen before then, and in their best context on the job. Alaka‘i managers will create a coaching m.o. where they deal with any messes first, and then use the annual appraisal as yet another time to celebrate a sweet victory with having done so. Give that victory to the employee whose performance you are coaching and mentoring as a win you can log during the ‘official’ review.

5. Keep conversation as the construct of each working relationship. Annual appraisals are a pain when you only do them annually. What I’m suggesting to you is that whatever is required becomes the culmination of better practices you’ve adopted day in, and day out. We talk about conversation so much here because it’s easy, enjoyable, and effective.

Work with Ho‘ohana initiatives to fuel performance energies in your workplace group huddles. Do the Daily 5 Minutes ® and you will have a wealth of one on one conversations:

I need to be crystal clear about something:
If you’re not giving your staff the gift of the Daily Five Minutes ®
you’re not Managing with Aloha „¢

Turn up the Volume, and Manage Loudly:
Don’t give up too soon. Enjoy the music of managing well.

This need not be overwhelming:
Don’t Just Add, Replace. Own the 100%
Scroll down to the footnote tags and see how much this relates to!

Bonus Idea: One of the practices we incorporate in the ‘Ohana in Business Model ® is the Annual Nānā i ke kumu Interview: We literally re-interview all our business partners (including our vendors and suppliers) to strengthen our relationships with the knowledge of any life shifts which have occurred over the past year. It’s a time we revisit innate talents, strength activities, and sense of place well-being as we purposely catch up with each other. Why do so many managers only do this when they first hire people?

Will this be enough for you?

Finally, please do question your own influence: Stretch and grow it, and do not underestimate what you are capable of. What can you do to effect change in the larger system? How can you be a change agent where you work so a bad system goes away forever?

I think of what I’ve just outlined for you in this post as managing well: As I love to say, managing and leading are verbs. Will you be satisfied with this, or will you now lead? One problem with leadership, is simply that we don’t have enough of it.

As I mentioned before, the obstacle faced is usually your company’s compensation structure if that’s what ratings are tied to: Break the ties which bind by offering to help them create a much better solution.


Reprise: The 10 Beliefs of Alaka‘i Managers

The following list of 10 Beliefs was shared as one of my earliest articles for online publishing: It was originally titled The Calling of Management: The 10 Beliefs of Great Managers. I decided to revisit it recently, intending to bring the list to a new home on Talking Story. As I did so, I added a few links to postings done over recent months as a self-testing exercise, curious about my own consistency. They were very easy to match up, for these beliefs have not changed in their importance and relevance, not at all. If anything, they have gotten stronger for me.

It is extremely exciting to see a light of renewal go on in managers’ eyes when they realize that the hard work of management can evolve into the gift of a calling in your life. Catching glimpse of that bright light is one of the best things I experience in my work as a coach. Answer these vitally important questions for me:

What is your intention as an Alaka‘i Manager? Did you choose to be a manager, or did you just find your way to being one? Whatever the history of your journey, do you love being a manager today? If not, why do you persist in being one?

Working within belief is a good place to be

You can’t be an Alaka‘i Manager striving for greatness if you do not intentionally choose to be one, and then make a passionate commitment to management consciously and with full on-purpose determination.

To “get started” with Managing with Aloha, you must be able to honestly say being a manager is your deliberate choice, and that your passion lies in the joys which come from being a great manager: “Good” is not good enough, for as a manager you directly affect the quality of people’s lives. That is not a responsibility to be taken lightly.

You must take stock of where your own convictions are when it comes to certain critically important beliefs about the people you will work with, manage and lead. People will factor into just about everything you do; everything.

When it comes to your own learning and growth, people are the ones who will teach you the most.

What do the truly great managers of our world believe in?

1. Great managers  believe that people are innately good; they must. Without this core belief and faith in people, great management is not possible.
For more: Unconditional Acceptance, Nature and Nurture

2. Great managers believe they do not work on their people, they work with them; they enable and empower them.
For more: You’ll Be the Company you Keep

3. Great managers believe that “empowerment” comes from within, and has more to do with self-motivation and innate talent than with the acceptance of authority. They get their cues from the person, not from the task or process.
For more: If you Ask for Initiative, Grant it

4. Great managers believe that all people have strengths which can be made stronger, and that their weaknesses can be compensated for, so they become unimportant to the work at hand.
For more: Job Creation Employs Strengths, Then People

5. When it comes to training, great managers do not believe they train people per se, they believe they train skills and offer additional knowledge.
For more: They like you. But do they perform for you?

6. Great managers believe they coach and mentor people as their best contribution to a community and sense of place, and they love doing so — not “like,” love.
For more: 3 Ways Managers Create Energetic Workplaces

7. Great managers believe that the people they manage are more than capable of creating a better future. They hold great faith and trust in the four-fold human capacities of physical ability, intellect, emotion, and spirit.
For more: Is it Time for Your Alaka‘i Abundance?

8. Great managers believe in the power of positive, affirmative thinking, and they have a low tolerance for negativity. They are confident and eternal optimists.
For more: The 3 Secrets of Being Positive

9. Great managers believe it is their job to remove barriers and obstacles so people can attain the level of greatness they are destined for. They believe that “can’t” is a temporary state of affairs, and that everything is only impossible until the first person does it.
For more: When Learning Gets Overwhelming

10. Great managers believe that their legacy will be in the other people they have helped achieve worthwhile and meaningful goals. They believe that success is measured in people who thrive and prosper.
For more: Helping Without Hurting

These beliefs may not sit well with everyone, but they are essential for Alaka‘i Managers as the people who make a difference in the lives of others.  These beliefs are the reasons why managers matter, and why management is vitally important. These are the challenges you must be eager to tackle, as in,  Let-me-at-‘em, I’m-perfect-for-this-job! eager.

If you do not share these beliefs, management will be possible by some standards (though not those of Managing with Aloha), however both my managing and coaching experiences have consistently demonstrated how it will prove to be much harder for you. Management will become the work of routine task and process, devoid of those rewards which stem from relationship-building and developing collaborative partnerships.

So what, pray tell, will you choose?

There IS a light inside everyone, I just know it!

Footnote: There is more backstory to MWA Mondays here if you are interested, including an index of relevant resource pages: Monday is for Managing with Aloha. My Book Page is here.

Manager’s Skill: Separate Signal from Noise

One of the best skills you can cultivate as a manager is separating signal from noise, understanding what you pay attention to, and what you ignore as irrelevant.

However I’m not going to underestimate the effort it will take on your part: Separating signal from noise is very difficult to do in today’s world. It’s a skill you have to focus on grooming constantly.

walk on Flickr by Paul Goyette

The problem we managers face, is that the noisy stuff gets loud and rowdy, and very hard to ignore. Signals on the other hand, are just the opposite: They have a tendency to be soft or silent, requiring your diligence with seeking them out.

Often there are signals within the noise which grabs our attention, but if we don’t look for them we can miss those signals too. Here are some examples:

Signal: An aisle on your shop floor which hasn’t been restocked in weeks, maybe months
Noise: The traffic spike you get with endcap displays near the door during a week it happened to rain a lot

Signal: Slipping job performance, which has gradually happened over the past six months time for a long-term employee
Noise: A customer complaint stemming from one unfortunate employee incident during a new hire’s probationary period

Signal: The doodling that happens during most of your staff meetings
Noise: All those open laptops people claim to need for their note-taking, which has replaced the conversation you used to have in your meetings

I’ll bet you can think of a bunch more. Sit for a moment and reflect on your day yesterday: What was signal, and what was noise?

Now here’s the money question: Which ones did you spend the most time dealing with?

You see there’s an added complication we managers run into: Others expect us to be the ones who deal with the noise and dispense of it for them, and we generally agree with them, that yes, that’s part of our job (I don’t always agree with that assumption, but that can be another post for another day).

So okay, let’s say you do need to deal with both signal and noise. The danger you can fall into if you’re not careful, is that you give a disproportionate amount of your managing energy to the noise, and not enough to the signal. It’s similar to trying to lead all the time, when you need to devote the managing effort it takes to execute on the leadership ideas that are already strategically agreed on, yet have remained incomplete.

Here’s the good news:

A simple self-coaching trick can help you. All you need is a page in a notebook you’ll commit to sitting with for a few minutes at the end of your workweek for the next month. If you honor your commitment, that’s about the time it takes to solidify a new habit, one which will train you with pinpointing more of the signals you should be awarding your attentions to.

At the end of each workday, repeat the exercise I gave you as a for-example above, and just ask yourself:

“Looking back upon my day, what was signal, and what was noise?”

As you separate the two, your instincts as an Alaka‘i Manager will kick in, and you will know what you have to do in dealing with signals better, and with noise quicker. The hardest part is your awareness of the difference between them, so you CAN intentionally decide what to work on.

Be a signal chaser, and a noise squelcher. The result you will gain is two-fold:

  1. A reputation for better follow-up. What people will appreciate getting from you is your work on signals, not on noise.
  2. An eventual lessening of the noise. You’re now getting to the root cause of noise when you deal with it (the true signal within the noise), and there are less repeated offenders.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~
Archive Aloha ~ A few related posts:

  1. Cultivating a Well-Behaved Mind
  2. Management is What and How
  3. Leadership is Why and When

More self-coaching exercises:
Coaching Caveat: Tackle just one habit at a time!

  1. Improve your Reputation with 1 List
  2. Be the Best Communicator
  3. Add Conversation to your Strong Week Plan