Wanted: Correct Solutions delivered compellingly

Wanted Blog

I think that one of the most common mistakes made when delivering a product or deliverable is how easy it is to get so wrapped up in the correctness of the content and meeting the letter of the requirement, that we forget to make things interesting. We forget to take a little bit of time to make our content compelling. As a management consultancy organization, this is a rule that we break all the time. When you break it, you run the risk of not giving your client all the value that they could have had. Now some people will say, “Well you’re just getting paid to provide the answer.” While I think that’s a hundred percent correct, there’s more to it than that.

A lot of times you’re called in to deal with a complex question or an organization is trying to achieve a particular goal. They ask you to come in and look at things so you evaluate a lot of different factors to come up with a result. In theory, it shouldn’t have to be compelling it should just have to be right. Unfortunately, that is not how the world works. It doesn’t just have to be the right idea. In a lot of cases, particularly in very large organizations, it has to win in the marketplace of ideas because a lot of times you’re not the only group that’s working on the problem. Now you may be the only group working on the problem from any particular angle but large organizations pain points oftentimes get addressed not just by one group, but multiple groups. Multiple groups will recognize the pain points and they’re all attempting solutions to address it from their particular angle. Oftentimes with the assumption that if they’re the ones that address it, they’ll be able to avoid a certain amount of organizational pain. This by virtue of being able to have crafted the solution. So I think it’s really important to look at things and go, “I need this to not only give the right answers, but I need it to be something that people will read the entire report through.”

You need to put things into the reports that will make it interesting to people that are notonly cutting fat, cut and dry, just the facts man type of people, but also to people that need to be pulled through a document. Those people need some visual cues. Maybe they need some facts and statistics that make it more relevant to them. Things that make it personal. In order to do this you need to know enough about whose going to being reading or seeing your report or presentation to make it compelling to them. Those are questions that need to get answered just as much as whatever the evaluation, assessment or particular problem is that you’re trying to address.  One of the things we’ve done more and more is utilize things like info graphics. I’ve included an example here.

This info graphic was developed to help us with a report we’ve been working on with a bunch of schools to address school safety issues. This was meant to spur action. There’s a lot of data that gets collected through the ExAM for schools process and we want people to go through and really take a hard look at those things. So we set up this info graphic with that goal in mind. Obviously we’ve got other things that we do throughout a full report but it’s meant to drive people to work through it by setting up the idea that it’s very important that they do so.

I’m actually very interested in feedback on the info graphic itself as well as the idea that you need to cater to people that might not go through an entire report that you deliver just because it’s not interesting. I know that a lot of people come from sort of the old school belief that people should do it because they believe it’s the right thing to do, it’s their job, etc. but that isn’t the case across the board. While those people are going to do it whether I make it interesting or not, it’s also really important you make the people that might otherwise only be casually interested to make it through it as well.  So if it was important enough for someone to engage you to do something, then it’s probably worth it on your side to make it as compelling as possible.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Alternative Tools for Creative Problems

I was thinking the other day about how I’ve really, over time, changed the way that I develop the different things that I’m trying to communicate. Whether it’s through the web, in a presentation, report, or whatever it is, I’ve developed specific tools for specific things. So I thought I’d share a little bit of that with folks. Now I know that as a Mac guy some of these tools are not necessarily available on the PC but if I happen to know a PC equivalent I’ll pass that along. Unfortunately I’ve become a bit of a Mac cripple and so I apologize in advance for those of you that are living in the PC world and are wondering that OmniGraffle was. Maybe that is a good place to start.

Over the years I‘ve started to use PowerPoint less and less. So many people have an axe to grind about PowerPoint and PowerPoint presentations. Either they come down on the side that it doesn’t convey enough information or people have started going to 70 slide PowerPoint decks. There are all these reasons people hate PowerPoint but the biggest thing that I don’t like about PowerPoint is the template driven nature.  I feel that not being able to start with a clean slate so to speak puts unnecessary boundaries on how you think. I know that because it’s so template driven they’ve got a lot of nice things that allow you to make things quickly. The SmartArt has gotten really good. There’s a lot of flexibility to it but I think on some level, it kind of constrains your thinking. As a result, I’ve gone to OmniGraffle to make presentations. (Probably the closest PC equivalent to OmniGraffle is Visio.)

OmniGraffle is a nice drawing tool that has a lot of stencils available from a lot of different makers. This helps you with the ability to create things quickly because there’s a lot of these ready-made tools but there’s a much broader stencil set that you can pull from. There’s also no sort of constraining template that you’re bound by. Now sometimes that can have a little bit of a downside because a blank sheet of paper can be intimidating but that’s why I think one of the most underutilized productivity tools today is the pen and paper or the whiteboard.

I so often start with pen, paper, and a doodle before I touch any other tool because I think that when you get in and you’re using your productivity tools on your PC, there’s a sense of permanence in it.  You don’t want to un-build things that you built once you’ve gone through the trouble of drawing a bunch of lines, grouping them, sending things to the back, and moving things forward so on. You don’t want to break anything. Whereas with a pen and paper, you just scratch things out and spend another three minutes hacking something new together. I think sometimes, especially at the beginning of the creative process, being able to throw things away is important because you’re going to have a lot of bad ideas before you have a good ones. At least, that’s what I’ve found. Your mileage may vary there. I know there are a lot of sharper people than me out there and so it might be that you’re able to knock things out without the number of iterations that I have to go through. I personally find that the easier I make it for myself to throw something away the better the final project is because instead of trying to take something that is halfway there and make it work, I can start over. So a lot of times my process will be pen and paper, or whiteboard if I’m working with a group, and then I’ll take it into Omnigraffle.

If we’re developing a website for somebody, I love Balsamiq.  Balsamiq you can use on the web, you can use it on a PC, or you can use it on a Mac and it allows you to frame things up really quickly. It’s a lot of sort of black and white fuzzy lines and it has the feeling of pen and paper but it allows you to do drill throughs and mimic web activities a little bit better. It’s really good for developing things quickly when you’re working with a client or a group to develop out websites and things like that. I’ve even used it a lot of times when we’re developing reports for people, business intelligence type things. I’ll go in and quickly put something together and mark it up. It allows people to get the idea of what I’m doing without having the focus in on colors and line thickness for the most part.  It really gets people to focus in on the informational elements, the content, and the placement which is incredibly important.  So that is another great tool for rapid prototyping and I really believe in it.

Finally, for graphics development I’m an Adobe guy.  Fireworks is something that I have used for a really long time. It’s just so accessible for people who may not be big graphics people but they need to be able to put together nice looking visual elements quickly without being a pro. Fireworks is a great solution. It’s also a lot cheaper than Photoshop. Adobe currently has a great offering right now which is Adobe Creative Cloud. With this you get access for $50 a month to all of their Creative Cloud offerings. I’ve actually gotten to where I use quite a bit more than just Fireworks but Fireworks has been something that I’ve always liked. It’s especially useful when you’re working with outside designers and you just want to tweak something up really quick. You can take and pull in whatever really advanced thing they’ve done and add in your little tagline, bit of text, or change a color without having to get down into 50 different menus to do it. That’s kind of the final piece of the puzzle for me. That’s where I’ll use Fireworks to pull together a couple of graphical elements and then drop them into OmniGraffle for my presentation or whatever it is.

So those are what I’m using for creative work for our clients. When we’re building info graphics and things like that we use a combination of OmniGraffle, Fireworks, and then oftentimes we’ll do the chart in in Excel or things like that. Then we bring it into Fireworks so that the graphics, the charts or whatever it is, really pops.  So hope that was useful for people and I’m curious if anyone else has any helpful alternative tools they use for creative problems.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Fighter food: Getting fit for better personal and professional performance

Flinstone fighter food

Paleo: The “caveman” diet

Today I’m going to step outside my normal blog topics and talk a little bit about health, nutrition and some of the things that I’ve been doing that I believe have led to better personal and professional performance across the board. The last few years I’ve really been stepping up my exercise quite a bit.  I had gotten to a point where I was hovering right at 299 pounds. I had basically stopped weighing myself until I was pretty sure that the next time I did, I wasn’t going to be over 300 pounds.  Now I realize the signal probably should have come a little bit earlier but when I hit 299, I realized I really needed to do something. Even though I’m pretty tall and I’ve got a pretty big frame, there’s just no way that I should be 300 pounds. So I got involved in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and immediately shaved off 25 pounds and got down to about 275 pounds.

I started feeling a lot better and like I was in pretty good shape.  I was still about ten pounds off the weight I played ball in college at, but I still felt pretty good. So I was content for a little bit. That was until I had an instructor in the jiu jitsu program, Greg Souders, that pushed me and a couple of the other big guys to lose some weight with the idea that we would feel better and we would enjoy our exercise and sport a little bit more. So we had a competition. It’s amazing how making something a competition will push you to try new things and push you to break down barriers.

It was then that I actually started to follow a paleo eating program.  For those of you that are unfamiliar, I won’t go into too much detail but the paleo sort of lifestyle involves giving up a lot of things that I had really come to love. In fact, for about the last 7 or 8 months I’ve essentially been grain free, bread free no pastas, no milk, no dairy, and nothing with sugar added. It has been amazing the transformation, in not just how I look but how I feel.

I’m now down into the 240’s, which is where I was as a senior in high school. I feel absolutely tremendous and I think it carries over into my work.  I’ve finally gotten to a place where I can excuse any type of meal.  I used to drink a lot of lattes, I had a lot of high carb snacky type meals, a lot of, “Oh I’ll just catch a sandwich for lunch,” and it had become a habit over so many years working in such a high paced environment. It had become such a habit to the point where I actually thought I was eating fairly healthy. Looking back on it, I was eating terribly.

Now I have lunches that are salads, big hearty salads, but salads nonetheless. They can have steak on them, chicken, shrimp, whatever type of proteins you want including bacon. I also eat a lot more plain vegetables and a lot more meats that aren’t wrapped in grains. One thing that I’ve really noticed is that when I miss a meal, I don’t get the type of cravings that I used to get when I was on the more industrial based food diet.  While all of this is for the better, I think the one thing that has really driven me to stick with it has been that it’s not just that I lost this weight and I look better. It’s the whole feeling better at work and home all the time part that has really made this change worthwhile and enjoyable.

One of the things I thought I’d do is share a recipe. This recipe has been sort of what I’ve used to put in the lunchbox to take to work throughout the week. Despite how it may sound, it is extraordinarily tasty and my kids actually call it “fighter food” and they’ll eat it. This dish gets made every Sunday to make lunch for the rest of the week.  It is as follows:

  • 6 pounds of ground beef
  • 2 pounds of kielbasa,
  • 3 or 4 beets
  • 1 onion
  • 2 peppers
  • a bunch of carrots
  • curry powder
  • cayenne peppers
  • 2 cans of coconut milk
  • 1 can of diced tomatoes

I cook up the sausage and beef in a pan first.  Then I put all the rest of the ingredients into the crockpot along with the meat and let it stew for about two hours. (Side note: I leave out the cayenne peppers when cooking for the whole family and use it solely for my own personal stash of fighter food.  While I enjoy spicy foods I realize not everyone feels the same.) That is all there is to it. It’s a very easy dish to cook up and it keeps well for a whole week’s worth of lunches. Anyway I know this was a little bit of an off topic blog post but I really do think how you feel is a big proponent to how you perform at the office. So I wanted to share something that I think has really worked for me. With this combination of exercise and diet over the last year, I’ve dropped more than 50 pounds and I really feel good. I think it has led to better performance. So I would love to hear your responses and please don’t feel as though you’re obligated to try my meal, although if you do I’d love to get your feedback on it. Thanks for reading as always.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Assessments: Dealing with information overload

May 28th Blog

I was thinking the other day about how much of our lives really revolve around assessments.  Almost from your first days in schools, you’re being assessed.  I have a daughter that is in kindergarten and one of the first in depth meetings that I had with her teacher was about an assessment of her. We covered how she was performing in comparison to other kids within the school, the state, and the nation.  The idea behind this assessment was to provide us a feedback mechanism to help us understand where she is and where she wants to go. These assessments continue essentially throughout the rest of your school years.

Once you leave there you get into the work world where your assessments continue whether that be annually, quarterly or whatever their basis is. If you really think about your life, you are surrounded by assessments, for example, checklists. Checklists are essentially reminders of what you need/want to do but if you measure them, they are an assessment of what you have done. These assessments are everywhere in your life. It’s especially seen in governments lately. Legislation has come down that tries to understand and manage better our government resources.  In order to understand that we have to use assessments to see how they are being used now and then analyze them to see how they could be used better.

There are some things that you don’t necessarily see as assessments but they are embedded in there if you look close enough. PortfolioStat is something that was intended to assess an organization’s large investments. You can use it to ensure that if they were going poorly that either corrective action was taken or there was the opportunity to cut them off before they bled into everything else.  Now something that I hear a lot of in both the public and private sector is a need for some sort of form strategy. We’ve got all these forms that we use to assess things by but they aren’t being utilized to the best of their abilities. It’s important to remember that the forms themselves aren’t the purpose. They are simply collections of information. The purpose in many cases of those forms is to assess something. It’s to understand a particular thing, whether it’s an application for a permit you’re trying to get or maybe it’s a person’s application for a job that’s assessing them in the context of what the requirements are. All of those things are talked about as forms but really, they’re assessments.

Now the reason I’m bringing this up is to get back to the idea about what information should I be managing? You have to realize there’s a cost to everything. I think that when you look at it in terms of assessments rather than forms, it makes you think about why do I need this information rather than focusing on automating the information that you currently have.  It’s a really important distinction because automating it may reduce the cost to gather it but it won’t reduce it as much as not gathering it if you don’t need it. It still takes time.  Even the most automated system out there won’t help you because if you don’t need that information for something, than don’t gather and it don’t assess it.  You don’t need to further clutter your informational picture.

I think so many of us function in a daily information overload state. There’s so much that comes at us. It can get really hard to discern what are the important things.  Anyway I think that if you start to think about the why behind the information that you’re trying to gather, you’ll do a much better job of choosing the things that you spend time from an informational standpoint gathering, managing, and performing analysis on. You’ll also reduce cost by a function of that. So I think assessments are something that need more of a conceptual approach to information gathering than anything else. You start to think about them as “I’m getting this information for this specific reason,” rather than “This is the body of information I need to collect because I’ve always collected it,” I think you’ll be more cost efficient and more useful.  I’m curious what other people think.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

The undeniable power of a clean desk

Busy_desk_red_svg

So I got into work this morning and I felt a little weird. I realized it was because when I walked in, I really felt on top of everything. I think some of it has to do with something that seems really simple. That is, when I came in my desk was completely clear and completely clean.  This newfound cleanliness stemmed from a conversation I had recently. We had Dray Wharton from the Wharton & Co. out last week to help us with a product launch that we have coming up in late June and one of the areas that Dray specializes in is personal productivity. So we got a little bit of value add in our visit in not only did he talk to us about our product launch, but he also talked with me personally. He gave me some executive coaching and other helpful tips.

One of the things he mentioned was really simple and it fit in nicely with some of the Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity topics that I’ve talked about in the past. It was the power of the clean desk.  So if you’ve ever had a chance to come through the MB&A offices, you’ll notice that for the most part our offices are very clean, very organized, and very professional. That has a lot to do with my partner Erik Ballinger. I’m not sure if it has to do with his military background or if it’s just the way he’s always been but he’s a very organized and tidy individual. This tidiness and organization has sort of carried over into every other area of the organization, with the exception of my office.

My desk for years has been a sea of papers. Now this total swampland that is my desk does have some advantages. I will tell you that one of the benefits is that I don’t lose things because everything is somewhere on that desk if you dig deep enough. I’m sure the answer to the mystery of the universe is somewhere within the depths of my desk, but those days are gone. My desk is now clean. By cleaning that desk off all the way every day, one of the things it has enabled me to do was create the action items, takeaways and things that I need to remember for the following day right there. As I mentioned in the past, one of the things that I do in the evenings is use some of the Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity, principles to complete tasks.

I create lists at the end of the day, things that are outstanding that I can’t get done right now. What this has done is just move my priorities forward and it’s moved my work life back out of my personal life and into my work time space. It seems like a really simple thing but it’s been really powerful. It’s made it so that I do those things in the last 10 minutes that I’m at work and I don’t have to carry that mental baggage home. I’m not trying to remember things that I need to get done tomorrow or the rest of the week while I’m having dinner with my family and I’m not grabbing my smart phone right before I go to bed and punching in a bunch of tasks. So for somebody who has spent the majority of his office life in clutter, it’s been a little bit difficult but it feels good. So I think that this is something that I will be able to stick with.  We’ll see. Maybe I’ll take a desk photo now and one in 6 months and well see if I stuck to it.  I’m curious what other people think or if other people have tried to do this and succeeded or failed. All I can say is so far the early returns for me have been really good.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Dealing with the oversaturation of your inbox

Email

I get a lot of email.  Between the different things that I’m involved in with my kids, friends, work and random other things I’m engaged in, it translates into lots of mail. It also sometimes translates into important things that probably should be kept track of but due to the sheer volume of emails incoming daily, isn’t always the easiest task. I was brought face to face with this reality again, not because I missed something but because of the effect missing someone can have on somebody.  That person was me.

Recently I’ve been working on getting a meeting with somebody that is fairly important to a business venture we’re developing. I’ve been trying to set up a mutually agreeable calendar date for a while and then finally I got an agreement for today.  I told him that I couldn’t wait to get together and how happy I was that he was going to be in DC.   The only times I couldn’t get together today were from 9-10 and 10-11. So a couple more email exchanges go back and forth then finally an email comes back saying the time he could and wanted to get together was from 10 to 11.  I read it and I was really disappointed because my current 10-11 meeting was a meeting that I couldn’t move. So I sit there and I spend about an hour trying to figure out if I should I try to move my current 10-11 which was also a very important and hard to get meeting.

I didn’t want to cancel the meeting that I already had.  It’s something that I just really hate doing. I think it’s really unfair to do that especially considering this was late last night at the last minute. So finally after much deliberation I decided to just write back and let him know that I just can’t do it at that time. I asked if there was any way to do it at the end of my current 10-11.  So after I had spent the better part of an hour stressing out and going back and forth over this thing and I send it back. Two minutes later I get and email saying, “Ok great! Love to do it and looking forward to seeing you at 11!”  So I had spent all this time being very concerned about something that my guess is, the person on the other end of the line didn’t put a whole lot of thought into.

There are a couple things you can take away from this. One of which is that it reinforces the point that if you have something really important, maybe you should pick up the phone an call them. What didn’t come through in the email is the nuance of it. I thought that the person was making a very serious point that that was the only time they had today so it was then or never. In actuality as I saw by the reply that was not the case. Maybe I could have said anytime during the day today and it would have been fine.  So it highlights the fact that while email is great for a lot of things, you don’t get all the nuance that you get from a phone conversation, Skype, Facetime, etc.

The other takeaway for me was making sure that I don’t miss any important facts due to skimming or skipping when trying to deal with the massive influx of digital communications on a daily basis.  I know that over time, you get copied on things all the time. Maybe as that continues to happen you read less and less details than you would otherwise and the tendency is to do a lot of skimming.  I’m sure that I’ve missed a lot of important things due to this trap. Basically I think that with email, especially when you get to the point where you’re cc’ed on so many things, you need some way of making sure that you don’t miss the important things. One way of doing that is to reduce the amount of things that you’re copied on and try to get people to let you know some way if it’s important.  If I’m on an email to keep me in the loop and there’s something that I really need to read, I need some way of knowing its importance.

I think one of the problems that has occurred over time is that in a lot of organizations the easiest thing to do is to add people to the email and allow people to opt into conversations if they so choose. This way people are eventually able to keep themselves in the loop if they want to be. The problem that this causes is over time it becomes harder to separate the things that are really important from the things that aren’t.  So this is one of the areas where it’s really nice to have a sort of collaboration capability in place where you’re able to opt into things. This is something that Salesforce excels at. If you look at chatter, it allows you to opt into ongoing conversations that are coming through the newsfeed. At the same time if you really need to get in touch with someone specifically, you can direct an email or something like that to them. It helps creates another tier in your communications strategy that allows you to keep people from dismissing things that might be important because they assume it’s part of this large stream of communications. So I’m curious as always to hear about anyone else’s ideas for how to manage the everyday overflow of digital communications.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Pushing your limits and knowing when to take a break

Tired Blog

Every once in a while most executives, managers, or anyone who is pushing hard to achieve a little more and perform a little better, is going to run into times that they’re going to have to go above and beyond. Times where you’re going to have to put in a lot of hours in a condensed period of time.  If you’re not careful, you’re going to get blown out. Now I’ve recently experienced this and have been putting in a lot of work to kick start a new business venture. This has meant a lot of late nights and weekends. It’s essentially become all-consuming but one of the things that I’ve tried really hard to do in the face of all that is to ensure that I don’t carry it too far forward. By that I mean I’ll explicitly take time to get rest.  There’s no way that, at least in my experience, that you can go 110% all the time.

If you get too many days in a row where you’re working 12, 14, or 16 hours and maybe only sleeping 3 or 4 hours, you will break down and your body will break down. You’ll get sick, the quality of your work will suffer, and you’ll take twice as long to get half as much done. So that is why you have to, no matter how pressing the timeline, force yourself to take a rest. It is very much a discipline thing. You have to force yourself to do things that are a part of your normal regime whether it’s exercise or something else. I know that even if I get very little sleep, a lot of times I get so amped up by the pursuit that I’m in midst of that I can’t sleep. So what I find, even after I’ve been up for a day straight, if I go to the gym and get a good sweat going it releases some of the mental tension that I have. It will enable me to get better rest. So I think that maintaining a reasonable level of physical activity and making sure that you take time to get good rest is critical.  I don’t mean go 18 hours, crash out for 3 hours, get up and go another 18 hours. You have to give yourself some recharge time. You’ve got to know your limits.

I know for myself I can do 2 or 3 days with very little sleep but eventually I’ve got to circle back around and take care of myself.  The tendency too often is to push until you can’t push anymore and that’s when you end up having other things slip through the cracks.  You have to maintain enough reserve so that you can deal with contingencies. You need to have enough reserve so that you can react to other things that are going on in your life and in your business. So you have to be really careful about how far into the red you push yourself because if you don’t keep enough in reserve you’re destined to break down and you can have some really catastrophic failures.  I’m curious to know how other people feel about this. I know that it is easier said than done and that the tendency is to push until you can’t push anymore. A lot of times we reward that sort of warrior mentality but I think that if you aren’t careful about it, you can really put yourself in a bad position. So I think it’s very important to be careful about just how hard you push yourself.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Following through:The difference between a pop fly and a home run

Following through blog

I think everyone’s been there. Where you get off the phone, you’ve just run through a big meeting, or a long conversation and after going through a bunch of different issues you get to an agreement. Once you get resolution or you’ve figured out how to move forward, the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders because you’ve sorted through all these things. Then you go back, you do the rest of your work and you’re feeling pretty good about yourself. Then a day goes by or maybe a few days go by and the things that were resolved on the call or meeting don’t get done. Then, if it was a big issue before it’s even worse now because now time passed. You have finished whatever you needed to get done and now you’re in a really bad spot because the other person isn’t holding up their end of the bargain. So for me, one of the things that I really try to focus in on is following through.

I’ve written blogs in here with regard to having better meetings, about making sure you take notes of action items, and things like that but if you focus in on it from just a general perspective on life, following through is invaluable in moving you forward. I think it’s because it provides a lot of insight into who people are or insight into how you are perceived. Following through is critical because almost everyone knows the right things to say.  So saying the right thing doesn’t hold that much value because everyone can do that, it doesn’t mean anything without the actions to back it up.

I feel like you get on a call, or you’re in a meeting, or you’re talking to someone, and they’re quick to agree. They say things like, “We can do that. No problem. We’ll get that done tomorrow,” and if it doesn’t get done it’s a huge factor in shaping your impression of that person. It’s huge especially if it happens to be someone you’re in business with or you’re going into business with them; it shapes that relationship. If it’s a client, it can be an enormous roadblock to moving forward. If your client is paying you to engage in a certain fashion and you don’t follow through, if I were that client I’d be prone to move onto something else. To me, that lack of follow through would be indicative of everything else. If I can’t get you to do the things that I directly tell you to do, why would I expect that you’re going to do things that maybe we haven’t discussed but are just the right thing to do? So I think it’s a critically important thing and it’s something that I think a lot of people fail at. I don’t think they fail because they don’t want to do what they said they’re going to do, but because they don’t keep track of the things they said they want to do or the things they said they were going to do.

So I think it’s critical to make a note of what your commitments are. You verbal commitments and the things that you’ve written down in an email to somebody are just as important as financial obligations that you’ve incurred. While people normally keep really good track of how they spend their money and where they’ve obligated their money, they don’t keep very good track of how they obligated their time, their promises, and the things that they’re signed up to do. I think it’s critical to how you’re perceived out in the world. The importance of honoring your commitments is why I’m a big believer in the “Getting things done” methods and part of that is keeping track of all the things that you’re committed to. I just think there’s such a huge cost to making mistakes in this area that I think everyone should consider taking the time to manage their commitments. So I’m curious what other people think, what their experiences have been, and if there are great examples of this out there I’d love to hear them.

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Perfect Practice Makes Perfect

Vince Lombardi Blog

I wrote a blog recently about the value of just showing up and I think it’s a very important concept.  So much of what we do, the value of what we get, and how quickly we are able to improve, is just consistency, grinding it out, and making sure that you get your repetitions in.  Whether it’s a new skill you’re learning, a sport, a hobby, or an intellectual pursuit, just showing up is such an integral part of the battle.

The other night I had a really interesting discussion with a couple different people.  We were talking about how two people doing the exact same thing can have vastly different experiences and results.  For example, say these two people are both in a room doing, let’s say 2500 squats.   Why is it that during the last 500 reps each person does, one person seems to get more value than the other person?  I believe it’s the determination to make every single repetition count, especially in the final stretch when fatigue or boredom normally kicks in and decrease the quality in the later reps.  It takes the right mentality to be able to stay in the moment.  It’s important when you’re practicing each repetition of whatever the activity it is that you’re trying to perfect, that you’re solely focused on improving that particular thing. Every time you do a rep of something you need to be completely aware of the physical and mental aspects of each repetition.  As Vince Lombardi said, “Practice does not make perfect, perfect practice makes perfect.”  Practice without a constant commitment to perfection in each rep is meaningless in pursuit of mastery over a subject.  This commitment to making the most out of every repetition is the big key if you want to take it up to the next level.  More than just showing up and grinding out the hard work is necessary if you want to reach your goal faster and potentially push even further.  It takes developing the ability to stay in the moment and truly focus on the activity at hand.  I think this is a key ingredient to being able to truly maximize your potential.  I’m curious to what other people think and what their approaches are to developing skills faster whether it’s juggling, learning how to write some type of code, or any other type of activity.  What do you believe to be successful mechanisms for getting the benefit of practice in a shorter period of time?

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.

Visualization: The battle between I will vs. Will I

yoda

I was flipping back through  To Sell is Human by Daniel H. Pink again and one of the things that I noticed was a section on visualization that I thought was really interesting. I’ve talked about visualization in the past several times. I’ve talked about it in the context of meetings, negotiations, and just generally as a means of envisioning your idea of success; thereby putting yourself into a better state of mind to succeed.  There’s obviously nothing earth shattering about that idea.  Everyone from Tony Robbins to athletic coaches talk about the use of visualization as a tool, along with countless other people who preach the benefits of visualization.  What I thought was interesting is some of the most recent research they spoke about in To Sell is Human.

One particular experiment he mentions talks about the difference between saying to yourself that you can do something, making a declarative statement such as, “I can make this sale,” “I can win this negotiation,” or “I can convince this person to do x,” vs. asking yourself an interrogative question saying  something like, “Can I make this sale?” “Can I win this negotiation?” ect.  In this experiment, people were broken down into two different groups and made to solve puzzles.  Both groups were treated equally until the final minute before they were unleashed on the puzzles.  In that final minute, one group was asked to tell themselves they will solve the puzzles and the other group was told to ask themselves if they could solve the puzzles.  Interestingly, the group that was told to ask whether they could solve the puzzles routinely outperformed the other group by almost 50%. (Pink, 2012)

The logic that’s been used to explain it in the book, is the declarative group of I will do somethings, gets you a bump over the control group that didn’t say anything to themselves, didn’t visualize, didn’t do any mental preparation going into an activity because they maybe had a little more confidence; but the group that asked if they could do something were forced to think through the things that might enable them to succeed. So by saying, “Will  I convince this person?” you start thinking what have I done before like this, how have I been successful like this before, what are the things I need to do to prepare myself, and it begins to build more confidence and actually give you access to the resources and strategies to aptly finish the task successfully. By asking the question you give yourself clues as to how you’ll accomplish something and ensures that you take any of the steps that have previously made you successful before. So I just thought it was really interesting to look at what a difference, just in how you frame things in your visualizations, small changes such as can vs. will can make. I really appreciated the logic in that experiment and it’s definitely something that I will literally carry directly from the book into my own life. This experiment is something that I think really adds to visualization techniques value as they pertain to how you’re going to go forward in a meeting and in just about anything else you’re going to do. I’d be curious to know if there are other people out there who regularly use visualization before meetings,  before going into a negotiation, before you talk to your teams ect.  If you do visualize, how do you approach it?  Are you a declarative I will person or are you an interrogative person who asks if they can?

 

Thanks as always for reading my blog, I hope you will join the conversation by commenting on this post.

If you liked this post, please consider subscribing to this blog and following me on twitter @jmillsapps. I regularly give talks via webinar and speak at events and other engagements. If you are interested in finding out where to see me next please look at the my events page on this blog. If you would interested in having me speak at your event please contact me at events@joshmillsapps.com.

If you are interested in consulting services please go to MB&A Online to learn more.