Tag Archives: Professional Development

Upgrade

An ambitious young supervisor argues with her manager about a simple technological initiative to increase their unit’s productivity and profits.  The idea is the right thing and the smart thing to do.  The manager rejects the initiative for various strategic reasons that all honestly involve maintaining the status quo.  Frustrated by the bureaucratic traditions of an old company on the slow road to extinction, the supervisors decides to alert her network, circulate her resume and upgrade her career.

Often upgrades refer to new software versions.  Sometimes it involves a cost.  It nearly always involves adding improved features and functionality to an established tool.  Another connotation implies relationships.  In relationships, an upgrade can mean a new and improved significant other, job, or social environment.  Again, the upgrade probably requires an investment of some type.

However, upgrades should not be limited to simple, superficial improvements.  Changes on the surface may result in new technology that requires expensive maintenance issues.  The wealthier boyfriend may have a pre-meditated shelf life on his relationships.  The new high-flying job may sacrifice the family-friendly atmosphere that had saved a marriage.  The shiny, new circle of friends with incredible professional connections may require prohibitive financial costs to remain included.  A superficial upgrade may yield desirable results, but may have some uncomfortable side effects.

Preferably, an upgrade transcends trinkets and appearances.  Upon considering a balanced perspective on upgrades, genuine life improvements are achievable.  Fundamentally, an upgrade requires a desire for new functionality and new features.  Understand that an investment in time, resources and/ or money will be required.  Even downloading a free computer upgrade takes time and may occupy the computer for an unproductive period of time.

However, upon committing to a personal upgrade, demonstrate the will and resolve for full execution.  Target internal improvement.  Don’t simply buy a new luxury vehicle, develop better character.  Don’t just strive for a better education, acquire and apply additional learning.  Beyond improving social standing, hang around people who are serious about developing reciprocal and mutual accountability for ongoing self-improvement.  An upgrade performs best when it changes internal characteristics.

Create an expectation that personal improvements will yield a higher performing individual. Acquire new knowledge, accept the challenge of a new environment, improve personal character.  Most importantly, realize an upgrade is not a single act.  Continue to look for the latest productive inputs to continue the upgrade process.  It is not an immediate improvement from one level to the next.  But it is a repeated process resulting in ongoing, greater accomplishment.  Learn a new language, train for a new job skill, use better technology, enter healthier relationships, connect with a more progressive social group, just take the next incremental step in the journey toward a better self.

Upgrade Today!

-The Voice

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Training

A young father brings home a bicycle with training wheels for his daughter.  He is ready to teach his daughter to ride a bike.  His daughter is happy and eager. Dad better be ready to work! Before the bike riding training turns into a child riding a bike, Dad will walk with the child while she pedals. He will run and hold the back of the seat while she struggles to balance.  Even after the training wheels are removed, he will run faster and hold on to support her.  When he finally lets go to execute successful bike riding, he will pick her up when she falls.  He will clean and bandage scraped knees.  He will offer encouragement to continue her efforts.  And, when dad is successful, he will let go and chase his daughter.  Then, she will race off faster than he can run.  He may have to pick her up a few more times.  But, very soon she is riding without his help, and dad is exhausted emotionally and physically from the completed process.

This is exactly how personal improvement works.  Training starts with an idea to improve someone.  Regarding formal education, it starts in kindergarten teaching children to learn simple rules like raising your hand to talk, taking turns, earning rewards through good behavior.  In executive training, the learning process turns to thinking strategically, demonstrating leadership so that others execute your vision, creating results in areas beyond your individual expertise.  Fundamentally, training involves changing behaviors that may have been individually working just fine to behaviors that will elevate overall performance.  That step requires an investment that will result in empowering people for greater achievement.

“What if we train our people and they leave?” is a classic question for decision-makers who are reluctant to invest in training their staff.  The logical response is, “What if you don’t train them and they stay?”  The clear outcome to the response is to endure poor performance.  Personal growth is stunted.  The child never learns to ride her bike because dad never wants her to leave his sight.

But change will prevail.  This is a fact of human and organizational development.  Experts argue that changing a habit requires an average of 21 consecutive days of changed behavior.  This applies to learning a new skill, overcoming an addiction, or changing a work procedure.  The process is established: educate, empower, measure, repeat…

Believe in the process. Invest in the process.  The proverb says “to train a child in the way he should go and when he is old he will not turn from it.”  It is the process that drives ongoing improvement.  Once improved performance is achieved, repeating the process for additional rewards is a natural progression.  Don’t stray from what works if  it successfully reaches goals  And, at every accomplishment enjoy the rewards. The real benefit is helping someone else whose success is important to the helper. This fact illustrates the mutual benefit to training. To do it right, a leader must launch the process, then be ready to work.  The ultimate reward is a trainee who now rides faster than the leader can run!
-The Voice

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Today

Tomorrow is not promised.  All we have is today.  People tend to spend too much time planning for tomorrow instead of living for now.  Worse yet, worrying about tomorrow takes attention away from the task at hand.  Planning is a today activity with a focus on tomorrow.  Worrying is similarly a today activity with a focus on tomorrow. Both activities are opposite sides of the same coin. One has an expectation of accomplishment.  The other has an expectation of disappointment.  Regardless, these activities feature expectations and neither results in execution.  They do nothing today.

But what is it that happens today which is so special?  Simply put, everything!  All activity happens today.  Only the present is a timeframe for activity.  For activity to be meaningful it has to lead to results.  Results are not a byproduct of  a static state.  Positive results are acts that reflect improvement.  And, improvement means change.  In following this logical thread, focusing on today is a prerequisite to individuals making changes for the better.

Unfortunately, people often wait to make a change, that is to improve themselves.  They wait for the weekend, they wait for the New Year, or they wait to grow up.  They wait to get better before making a change toward improvement.  The majority approaches change like the man who says that he will visit the doctor as soon as he starts feeling better.  Essentially, this belief promotes the idea that change will come tomorrow.  However, the exceptional individual takes control today to make a change.  Change requires activity and activity only matters today.  Value today!

In business a dollar today is worth more than a dollar tomorrow.  Finance students learn this concept at the beginning of their studies.  Because of the risk involved waiting for tomorrow, the possibility exists that an expected dollar tomorrow may never arrive.  Any value that is not recognized today is merely expectation or speculation.  Of course, forecasts and speculative investments have some value.  Nevertheless, all capital must be monetized at today’s prices before it can be deployed.  Currently priced capital can be used to buy goods, acquire businesses, and secure opportunities.  Until these assets are realized in today’s dollars, they are only hopes, or even dreams.

Dreams are for tomorrow.  Maximum value can only be recognized today.  All activity has to be done in the current moment. Execution happens in the present.  Living in the moment is a cliché, but it captures the power of today.  Today is activity.  What does not happen today, does not happen.  Target what you are ready to see realized today.  Make it happen!

-The Voice

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Expectation

“I hope that you are doing fine.”  That is a common greeting.  But, like many greetings, it is basically an empty statement.  What happens when Taylor says “I hope you are doing fine” and Sydney says “Actually, I have contracted a serious disease”.  If Sydney is sincere the follow-up question will show concern and potential support.  More than likely Taylor will move on to a non-intrusive topic or avoid the issue (and possibly Sydney) all together.

What happens when the same conversation revolves around an expectation.  “I expect that you are doing fine” is almost a challenge.  An expectation commands a response and an interaction.  Like the book by Rick Page says in its title, Hope Is Not a Strategy”.  However, an expectation connects to an outcome.  Outcomes are tactical.  And tactics are better than strategies!  Furthermore, tactics involve work and work implies results.

Connecting expectations and outcomes, professionals regularly talk about expected outcomes.  In statistics, an expected outcome ties into probability.  An expected outcome is the result of identified inputs representing a series of events (ok to find a better statistical definition).  Expected outcomes can be calculated.  Consequently, when expected outcomes transition from the theoretical world to the physical, people can predict them and prepare for them.

An expectation can be achieved once the factors are identified and organized.  The logic of expectation is what makes them so effective in organizations.  When people can predict the outcomes from specific input, processes are at work that can be reasonably replicated and improved.  With customers, students, or individual development, exercising control over the inputs, then the outcomes yield powerful forces  These forces are also known as profits, academic excellence and success.

Customers will pay premium prices to have a degree of certainty that their expectations are fulfilled.  Students will study harder as long as they expect their grades to accurately reflect their efforts.  Employees will overachieve when they believe that they can expect a desired promotion based on their contributions.

An expectation is either achieved or not. An expectation can be pursued, missed and tried again.  But, it is not static.  It is not an end in itself.  Expectations point to a process, then an outcome.  Hope is based on emotion.  Expectations is based on data.  Choose an outcome.  Apply a process.  Achieve your expectation.

-The Voice

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Endurance

Endurance instantly brings to mind visions of long-distance running.  It requires strength, longevity and mental toughness.  In a race, endurance is a winning characteristic when durability and consistency are most valued.  Similarly, in an organization, endurance is a critical attribute involving steady and unwavering progress.  An explosive sprint, just like corporate hyper-growth, devalues endurance.  However, endurance succeeds when the objective demands a long-term perspective and ongoing high performance.

Whether describing a foot race or the rat race, endurance results from proper conditioning and preparation.  Longevity is not an accident. It requires focus and concentration.  Too often races emphasize speed.  But, superior performance is not limited to short increments.  The 100 meter dash world record holder is often called the fastest man in the world.  Business accolades are routinely awarded to the fastest growing enterprise in a given year.  However marathon runners earn medals, also.  Steady, sustained profitability wins corporations favor with bankers and stock analysts.  The reward for that prize is often more capital!  Endurance may not benefit from flashy headlines or gaudy titles.  But make no mistake, winners who emphasize endurance and resultant long-term excellence also receive their rewards.

Culturally, Americans are enamored with immediate gratification. The corporate landscape is littered with high-flying stars who delivered dazzling results only to crash in an equally spectacular fashion.  Careers flourish when professionals consistently earn victories that reflect long-term value.  Furthermore, organizations can withstand crash and burn executives as long as the organization reclaims an emphasis on continued wealth creation.  Long-term, high performance is the essential, enduring characteristic of winners.

Interestingly, children’s early lessons regarding endurance is the fable of the tortoise and the hare.  The story features a consistent and focused tortoise defeating an arrogant and undisciplined hare in a race.  The moral is slow and steady wins the race.  In today’s environment a better story is the proverb of the gazelle and the lion .  “Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a lion or a gazelle – when the sun comes up, you’d better be running.” 

In this scenario endurance does not lead to simply surviving the day; that is the short-term.  Endurance represents the preparation, mental toughness and consistency to perform to the best of your natural ability every day as a matter of survival.

-The Voice

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Encouragement

Dear Abby, the advice columnist, once described sex by saying that “the getting is in the giving”.  The concept  of reciprocal, mutual benefit resurfaces in one version of the golden rule, “It is better to give than receive”.  Both examples directly relate to encouragement.  Many people enjoy telling others that they can do it.  Furthermore, people love receiving encouragement.  It strengthens individual resolve.  It validates specific efforts.  It makes people feel good.

The giver contributes encouragement for personal reasons.  The giver extends particular attributes through another channel, the receiver, which in turn increase the receiver’s capability.  The encouragement can be a kind word, positive feedback, constructive criticism, sage advice, a timely introduction, seed funding, a ringing endorsement or a casual reference to the right audience.  Look closely at high achievers and often crucial encouragement came from an early teacher, a demanding mentor, or a well-connected advisor.  The right word or action at a key time in any individual’s development can make the difference between success or failure.

Fundamentally, encouragement provides the receiver with validation to purposefully persevere toward their current goal.  Whether pursuing a passion, launching a career, building an organization or changing the world, the right encouragement motivates an individual to achieve.  Proper encouragement inspires a young person to continue their education and it convinces a fallen leader to resume a career with more character and integrity.

Once again concerning encouragement, the getting is in the giving.  The giver channels expertise or a positive perceptions through another individual to impact a broader audience.  The receiver accepts validation that their objectives are worthy pursuits.  Encouragement may be intentional, extravagant and tangible, like an invitation to the executive retreat on the CEO’s plane.  Or it may be more subtle, like an “A” from a respected teacher with a tough reputation in your field of study.  Regardless, the desired outcome is consistent:  recognition that you are on the path toward your goal.

Individuals deliver encouragement to contribute their knowledge and insight into areas beyond their immediate sphere of influence.  Action-oriented dreamers accept encouragement as acknowledgment that their aspiration is equipped to create value individually and for others.  People with a vision must seek encouragement and then embrace the change that it creates.  Use encouragement to propel a vision to desired heights.  Then, take the lessons and encourage someone else.

– The Voice

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Launch

In 1961, President John F. Kennedy famously proclaimed that “”I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth.”   In both a historical and business context, this statement exemplifies a bold vision.  President Kennedy did not detail all the required technical steps to achieve the goal.  Most of the technical details had yet to be developed.  Ironically, he did not live to see his vision‘s launch.  But, as a leader he clearly stated an enormous vision that he fully intended to achieve. The United States of America was going to launch a rocket to the moon  and return!

History tells us that in 1969, Apollo 11 launched, landed on the moon and safely returned thereby accomplishing that vision.  By 2010 having a vision resulting in a launch is almost a cliché, particularly in the business realm.  According to the US Small Business Association, annually over 600,000 new businesses move from idea to launch.  As a result of this high level of entrepreneurship, it is no wonder that launches are so prevalent in our cultural vocabulary.

But, look at the details that go into a launch.  An idea, then a bold statement, is just the start. Beginning the process does not necessarily require scientific committees, congressional hearings or press conferences as in the case of President Kennedy.  The initial idea can be conceiving a better software application, tastier recipes, a new literary character, or a better way to serve a group in need.  And, the bold statement does not even have to be audible.  It can be a marketing campaign, a written public proclamation, or a personal commitment to change.  Simply put, the bold statement must initiate action.

The launch, on the other hand, is difficult!  A successful launch has to escape the gravitational pull of self-doubt, fear, naysayers, resource limitations and/ or generally accepted physical laws.  After defying both human and physical nature, the launch requires execution.  It does not require flawless execution.  In the case of a bold vision, the details are not predetermined.  You make the plan as you go.  When Lewis & Clark pursued their vision to reach the west coast, there was no Mapquest to guide them, nor I-80 to drive, not even a creepy service station attendant to warn them about the locals.  They had no path to follow!  In launching a powerful vision, there is only execution.  If you do not return then you obviously failed.

Essentially a launch demands intentional and aggressive action.  Purpose and passion are key ingredients.  A Word from the Voice has launched.  It is attached to a vision; it is attached to a purpose.  What are you launching?  What ideas requires purposeful and passionate action?  What force of nature will you escape to execute your launch?  When will you land on the moon and return safely?
-The Voice

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