Embracing What’s Wrong to Get to What’s Right – Tony Schwartz – Harvard Business Review

Tony Schwartz describes CEOs as Chief Energy Officers and writes here about his experience of re-orienting a meeting where he was feeding the group many new ideas with enthusiasm, and not receiving the warm welcome he had hoped for.  Instead he was hearing about people’s stress and lack of recognition for the work done so far.

My two favourite points in his response:

“Because human beings have a strong “negativity bias,” we pay more attention to our bad feelings than to our good ones. It once clearly served our survival to be vigilant about what might go wrong and that instinct persists. Today, it may serve to buffer us from disappointment, but it also promotes disproportionate and destructive discontent. The simple question “What’s going right?” provides ballast in tough times.”


“The highest skill — whatever your role — is the willingness to embrace opposite feelings without choosing up sides. Acknowledging bad feelings is key to being able to address what’s causing them. Recognizing they’re only one part of the story frees us to notice what we feel good about and grateful for, which helps us to feel positive even in the face of ongoing challenges.”

I’d add a third observation from the first rate materials and training that I have received from the National Managers’ Community in the Government of Canada: Behind every complaint is a commitment.  Whereas in my early days as a manager my instincts might lead me to wonder why people were “just being oppositional” when work needed to get done,  when now I take the space for explorations of the values that people are indirectly expressing when they are  complaining, I have found important information that may provide a jumping off point to a better working relationship. The number one reason that people are complaining:  they want sufficient time and space to submit a good product.

via Embracing What’s Wrong to Get to What’s Right – Tony Schwartz – Harvard Business Review.


Effective People Think Simply

I’ve recently signed up to receive management material from the Stanford Business School and thought that this video on the value of having a simple set of rules to guide you was quite valuable.  This is not a new idea: Obama only wears grey or blue suits because he has so many other decisions to make and Alton Brown has a few simple rules to guide what he eats and drinks to manage his weight such as limiting to once a week alcohol and dessert consumption and never consuming “diet” foods.  That said, this piece elaborates how you might create some rules in a business setting,

Why a simple set of rules?

  • We get faster decisions
  • We get better decisions (if we overfit for the past, this is a poor predictor of the future)
  • People can actually follow a small number of rules even under great stress.

The gist of the research:

Researchers examined product development teams to see who got the most done and overly rule driven and complicated processes resulted in the wrong products being produced very efficiently while teams with no rules had a great time getting nothing done.

Teams benefited from having a few rules that would guide work but leave flexibility for innovation.

The steps recommended to develop your rules:

  1. Set your objective
  2. Find the bottleneck (it may not be where you think it is – in the example given it was during the hiring process.)
  3. Develop your rules by looking at your own data of when you have been successful and by talking to outside experts.

The hardest rules to follow are the ones telling you when to stop doing something – we are all great at starting something and very poor at stopping.

The Art Of Letting Go: How I Learned To Stop Procrastinating | Fast Company | Business + Innovation

A good short article on one person’s strategy to let go of procrastination.  The things I found most powerful were the suggestions of thinking of the pain it would cause in the end to keep avoiding the real work and the challenge to think about whether the trade off to give in to  distractions were worth it to avoid the difficult work that would precede a satisfying outcome.

via The Art Of Letting Go: How I Learned To Stop Procrastinating | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

10 Good Reasons to Curb Your Perfectionism | Bonnie St. John

This is another excellent article – worth the whole read especially for female leaders.

Top ten reasons:

1. It drives away good people.

2. It causes pain to those you manage.

“Even if they don’t quit working for you, your perfectionism can cause others on your team to put in unnecessary hours, suffer from constant criticism and actually stop taking initiative.”

3. It blocks promotability.

4. It prevents risk-taking.

5. It stops people from applying for new jobs.

6. It impedes innovation.

7. It makes work-life balance impossible.

8. It crowds out networking:

“Too many of the women we coach have to learn to lift up their heads from task completion to look around, build relationships and study their business beyond their own purview. We, as women, tend to criticize men for golfing, drinking together or taking long lunches while we slave away at our desks. Networking is crucial for building trust, strengthening teams and preparing yourself for the next levels of your career.”

9. Makes you seem overly tactical (and not strategic).

“No one will think you can see the big picture or set priorities when you seem focused on the minutia. Being able to let go of your perfectionist tendencies may help you to win more strategic projects.”

10. Takes the focus off the most important things.

via 10 Good Reasons to Curb Your Perfectionism | Bonnie St. John.

Why Its Okay To Quit | Fast Company | Business + Innovation



A short piece to help you re-frame quitting from the failure lens.  There are bits on helping you get past the fear part of quitting and move beyond the failure identity label, as well as this good bit on seeing quitting as a beginning:


“As Bo Ren writes, “All new beginnings come from quitting something.” Quitting is a forward-looking action. You are making space for bigger and better possibilities and connections. A quit opens up energy and resources for whatever new endeavor you have your eye on. Rather than worry about you’re losing by quitting, think about what you’re losing by keeping your hands full of something that’s doing nothing for you or anyone else.”

via Why Its Okay To Quit | Fast Company | Business + Innovation.

Why you need to stop bragging about how busy you are

Why you need to stop bragging about how busy you are

Some good reminders here about how longer hours doesn’t produce the best work or the best workers.

Those who produce brilliant work work hard for short stretches (90 minutes is the rule cited in The Talent Code and Be Excellent at Anything) and take breaks or even naps to restore.  With this approach, thinking becomes sharper and innovation is supported.

And I wholeheartedly agree that the boss has to leave first to set the tone for the culture of balance.

When is the right moment?

Seth Godin is always worth a read…


“The right moment

You might be waiting for things to settle down. For the kids to be old enough, for work to calm down, for the economy to recover, for the weather to cooperate, for your bad back to let up just a little…

The thing is, people who make a difference never wait for just the right time. They know that it will never arrive.

Instead, they make their ruckus when they are short of sleep, out of money, hungry, in the middle of a domestic mess and during a blizzard. Whenever.

As long as whenever is now.”

Here is the link to his website – you click on the picture of this head to access his blog.

The Progress Principle

(c) david ingram

This interview is a good summary that will serve as my overdue nod to a book I found on the Globe and Mail list of the top ten business books of the year in 2011. The Progress Principle is the result of the analysis of thousands of work diaries to figure out what makes employees feel empowered at work – it’s making progress on meaningful work.  The definition of meaning has to make sense for each person and the amount of progress can be small. Managers can support through finding catalysts (clear goals and resources) and nourishments (respect and emotional support) to progress versus creating inhibitors (micro-managing) and toxins (being disrespectful). What I wish the authors had elaborated on was the difficult rub of a collective making progress on meaningful work with liberal amounts of inhibitors and toxins thrown into the mix.  To my mind, the framing of the thesis can miss the mark because the definition of progress can work for some and not for others.

Preventing Your Own Burnout Is Part Of Your Job ⚙ Co.Labs ⚙ code + community

Preventing Your Own Burnout Is Part Of Your Job ⚙ Co.Labs ⚙ code + community.

There is no special magic in this article, but I loved the sentiment – staying healthy and on top of your game is part of your job and time off feeds this.

Also appreciated the nod to freelancers who need to be able to take vacations too:

“Freelancers might find vacation time more challenging than most. For the self-employed, no work equals no pay, plain and simple, although some freelancers have figured out how to hack back their hourly rates.   Not everyone can afford to get away from it all, but there are a number of options recommended by Freelance Folder. In short: Plan ahead, save a bit, inform your clients, and scale back as much as you can.”



Winning When the Troops are Tired – Let’s Grow Leaders


An important piece for me to have read this year – I work with a hardworking and understandably tired team.

The best bits in my opinion:

“Help your team understand what matters most.   Be frank about what can be lost without sacrificing your mission.  Candor strengthens resolve.  Empowering “less than perfect”, energizes the front lines.”

“Provide a little leave:  “Your highest performers won’t complain.  They’ll take on more, and work longer hours to get it done.  You may not even know they’re tired.   Initiate the conversation.  Establish regular check-ins.  Make it okay to politely question your asks.”

Manage your own stress:  Stress rolls down hill.  Get a grip.

via Winning When the Troops are Tired – Let’s Grow Leaders.