Resolutions and “The Middle”

The problem with resolutions is “the middle.” It’s “the middle” that causes the issues for most of us. The start, the beginning, is easy; January 1st, January 7th, Lap 1 of a 12 lap race, the start of a marathon, the 1st 12 scripted plays of the game, the beginning of the project, the start of the relationship. We can deal with the excitement of the start. Everyone feels good and is positive at the start. We’ve all got good intentions. In fact, the end isn’t too bad either. We can see the end, the finish line, day 364 of 365, week 51 or 52, lap 12 of 12; “I can do this” we say, I can see the finish line; the end; the goal; that is if we make it that far.

The problem with getting there is “the middle.” It’s February 9th that’s the issue, not January 1st. It’s lap 7 of 12, it’s mile 16 of the marathon, it’s 40% of the way through the project, day 137 of 365, Wednesday morning of the work week, the middle of the 3rd quarter. That’s when things are messy, with choices, fatigue, options, too many details; things aren’t going according to plan, we got hurt, our stomach is upset, it’s cold outside, the team is off course, the race is getting difficult, the project isn’t on schedule, and so on. That’s when fatigue sets in; project fatigue, game fatigue, relationship fatigue, physical, mental, emotional fatigue. It’s easy to get lost in the details. This is where many of us give up.

We lose sight of the start, forgetting where we came from, and of the finish; where we are going. We get lost somewhere between.

Overcoming this is mostly a mental exercise; a mindset. But we need some strategies to carry out to keep ourselves on course. Much of success or failure is a game of attrition. The last one standing wins. The one who endures. The resilient. So, how do we do it?

We need some milestones, mile-markers, benchmarks, records, to assess our progress and status; mental exercises and many self-created markers or metrics  to measure against and to keep on a path toward completion or improvememt.

Some things that work for me are noted here. I use them regularly. Perhaps it may help you as well.


Treat each lap of the race, each day in the month or year, each detail in the project, as the 1st one of the next cycle. In other words, January 2nd is day 1 of the next 365 cycle, so is June 27th. But each days is closer to the end, the finish. The work is shorter every day, the finish line closer. The next mile is the 1st mile towards a shorter race to the finish line. Remember the start, keep the end in mind, but know that each step along the way is the 1st step toward a definite finish or improvement towards an ongoing goal.

Set Milestones or Course markers to measure progress. Measure backwards always, not forward. Measure against set criteria; miles completed, money saved, relationship equity built, positive outcomes experienced, budget spent vs budget remaining.

Enlist Support. Get counsel. It helps to have a coach, an encourager, a friend, a peer, someone to clap, to provide input, to provide perspective.

Know that some things have destinations, and some things just run in perpetuity. For the latter, we will never “arrive” fully (like continual improvement in a business.) We just have to measure progress and know where we stand in the process.

For things that have destinations, we can more easily monitor and keep the end in mind or in sight. Finishing a run, a race, a project, a course, a meeting, shipping a product and so on.

There are many ways to accomplish staying strong in the middle. Where the courses and milestones are not marked out for us, we have to set them, whether in our mind or physically. When we are leading a team, we have to use these things to help guide and keep everyone on course.

Happy New Year. New Day. New Hour. New Mindset. Next step. New reality. It’s up to me, to you, to us, to make that, to paint it, to write the story, to take it one day at a time.

How’s the resolution going?

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Playing Not To Lose vs Playing to Win

As we start the year of 2019, I’m curious as to our disposition around this idea of “playing not to lose” vs “playing to win.”

I see both types of people, teams, corporations.

What’s the difference?

If we play not to lose, we are taking a defensive posture. In this posture we can’t actually win, unless it’s by accident (even that’s a stretch.) This is not a good strategy. We often feel comfortable in the “play not to lose” mindset, but it is a false comfort. It’s a “slow death” for a business, a team, a city, a culture, a relationship. This is the space where we don’t take any risks, or keep them really tightly measured. It feels comfortable in that we think it’s designed to not fail. But actually this is planned failure over the long haul. We think that if we do everything we can to not lose, then we will not have to worry about the risk of failure. It doesn’t work that way. If we play not to lose, we’ve already failed at the beginning. It’s just not yet apparent to the participant.

Playing to win involves risks. We MIGHT lose but we might win as well. In fact, we play as if we EXPECT to win. There’s a vulnerability in that space for the person stating their intention, whether to themselves or to those around them. But playing to win is the option that gives us the real opportunity to win. Sure, we may may go down in flames, but I say “better to have tried and to have lost than to have never tried at all.”

Leadership has to create a winning mindset and model it. Leadership is even more vulnerable in that space than others, since it also influences all other people and downstream results that are involved. It’s open to criticism of the onlookers, and to those on the team as well.

I’d rather play to win. To be dynamic. To take risks, to go for it, win or lose, pass or fail. Resilience is the quality I seek; to dust off after the loss or failure and to give it another go; to plug away; to be relentless. Sometimes we may have to call the game or change course at times. That’s okay as well. It happens with forward motion.

Playing to win is active, it’s participatory, dynamic and takes risks. Playing not to lose is on its heels, it’s static, it watches and is risk averse.

The manifestation of either position is rooted in mindset, which is a deep well. It’s subtle to the player, obvious to the viewer and onlooker.

Which disposition are you? What outcomes do you seek?

“Zero-Based” Meetings

You’ve heard of “Zero-Based Budgeting”? You start the year with ZERO in each line item of the budget and build from bottom up. Everything is evaluated from a fresh perspective and nothing is taken for granted in the new fiscal year.

How about we do the same for meetings? I’m just thinking from a “zero based meeting assessment” point of view; meaning everything about meetings, the meeting purpose, scope, duration, participants and value assessment is on the table for re-evaluation year to year or quarter to quarter. We need to ask ourselves if a particular meeting or set of meetings are still worthwhile or not, to see if we are still achieving the intended purpose and corresponding results, or not.

Let’s re-assess our goals and needs for all meetings and start fresh.

The Entrepreneurial Dichotomy

Dichotomy; a contrast between two things

The Entrepreneurial Dichotomy is that our energy, ideas, our vision, are deeply needed, yet our businesses are worth much more without dependence on us; without us having to be present to do transactional things; to not have to handle the day-to-day. We are supposed to be building an enterprise rather than doing a specific job.

Being free to devote our attention to the places where we provide the most value to clients, and to our business, is what creates the best opportunity for everyone to benefit; being unencumbered by everything else to the fullest extent possible

This takes constant effort and intention.

I recommend a “not to do list.” The list facilitates what we are supposed to be doing, and provides a reminder to delegate everything else.

Dynamic change should happen in perpetuity in order to keep this process advancing.

What’s on your not to do list? What’s your focus?

It’s a constant battle and effort to make it happen.

Systems

“That accounting system is great. It helps us track productivity and see “real time” revenue stream, project tracking, and utilization. This is going to really improve our operation.”

“That CRM system is awesome. It’s going to allow us to monitor sales and client activity, hit rates, incoming pipeline. We’ve got this really dialed in now.”

“Those spreadsheets for earned value tracking are so good for operations. All our problems are solved operationally, since we can now know exactly where projects stand at all times.”

Time out. Hold up. Reel it in. Yes, these systems are great. They are necessary for proper management at scale. They are part of best practices in professional services. BUT, they won’t change a thing if the mindset behind the people and the systems stays the same. They are just systems. The proper use and execution of systems from the right mindsets and applications are what helps to change things. The systems are tools, just like any other tools of a trade.

Buying a hammer doesn’t make us a Finish Carpenter. Buying a new stove doesn’t make us a good chef. Buying a tool or a system doesn’t guarantee compliance or results.

Good systems still need thought and sensible people behind them. In fact, in professional services, if given a choice, solid, experienced, smart people will trump a system or process every time. When both are applied together, it’s magic. Checking a box or using automation can make good better, but bad even worse.

Project Psychology

There is much said and written about Project Management. Every project is to have (among other things) :

  1. A PMP: Project Management Plan
  2. A RMP: Risk Management Plan

What about a “CCP” and a “PPP”?

  1. CCP: Client Communication plan
  2. PPP: Project Psychology Plan

You see, each client and each project has unique needs, wants and desires, best identified in the Proposal stage of the project, but manifested throughout. This is true at “B2B” (business to business) level and “P2P” (person to person). You see, also, each project has a “mind” of it’s own; multiple constituents within the context of the project, differing goals and values, some within our sphere and some outside of it. So often projects become “triage mode” or “tyranny of the urgent” because we are focused on “checking the boxes” and not dealing with the essence, the mindsets, the commitments of others, the “psychology” of the project.

The more we align with client expectations, understand the dynamics of the project, the mindsets, the conflicting priorities, the more our “box checking” effort (within our process) is just a matter of consequence and documentation. Because “checking the box” within our processes doesn’t deal with “the why’s” within each project. It only memorializes activities.

How’s our understanding of project and people dynamics? This has influence over the quality of a project manager’s life and the quality of project produced.

Provision

Since it’s Sunday, I’ll deviate from normal “business stories” and share one of faith. I hope you all enjoy it. It’s deeply rooted in many of the promises and truths of God.

If I tried to explain it, you’d hardly believe it….but it’s true.

It’s a modern day version of “Loaves and Fishes..” (Jesus multiplying the food for the crowd.)

The manifestation of God’s provision in our business week after week, month after month. Heaven touching earth.

Everyone in administrative support group is seeing it.

Without exaggeration, it’s brought out some awe, emotion, and some true jaw dropping responses.

I’ve “teared up” a few times and could hardly speak, but now I just smile and say “loaves and fishes.” It’s become a key phrase and truth for us, and it makes us smile.

The sprinkling of Gods love…..

It’s real and amazing

Have you seen it? Have you felt it in your life too? Do you know it?

Got a story?

If so, and if so led, share it here.

Happy Sunday. Happy faith venture.