Thinking

How great are you?

If you think you are beaten, you are.
If you think you dare not, you don’t.
If you like to win but think you can’t,
It’s almost a cinch you won’t.

If you think you’ll lose, you’re lost.
For out in the world we find,
Success begins with a fellow’s will.
It’s all in the state of mind.

If you think you are out classed, you are.
You’ve got to think high to rise.
You’ve got to be sure of your-self before
You can ever win the prize.

Life’s battles don’t always go,
To the stronger or faster man.
But sooner or later, the man who wins,
Is the man who thinks he can.

~ Walter D. Wintle

Hail to the bus driver man!

What do you want to do when you grow up?

THIS is a tribute to those people whose actions make our lives possible.

Think of an ordinary day of your typical city dwelling person.  A school student, university student, office worker or senior citizen. It is very likely that they may need to go somewhere, and that they may decide to catch a bus in order to get there.

Who will drive that bus?

If you are a member of the ambitious middle class, and there is a good chance you are (i.e. you’re not starving poor and you don’t have the time and money to do exactly as you please), then you probably toyed with the idea of driving that bus.  You may have also toyed with the idea of sliding down a fireman’s pole, building houses, delivering milk, or inventing new technology to teleport you onto the Starship Enterprise.

You were young, and you dreamed of doing things …

… and then you turned 11 and your parents suggested kindly and lovingly that you be a little more realistic. Driving a bus is a cute idea! But have you considered being an accountant, lawyer, doctor or dentist.  Respectable jobs with good pay.  You can live in a nice house like daddy and mummy.

That’s all very well.  These are all valid jobs and lawyers are people too (right?), but the important and subtle shift that went unnoticed by us as children was that our innate childish wisdom of wanting to do things was carefully replaced by our parents’ well intentioned but misguided advice to be something.  “What do you want to be when you grow up?”

This is the wrong question to ask a child. More to the point, this is the wrong question to ask anybody. Life is not about your job title, but about your actions to improve the lives of others. Life is made possible only by doing, by providing value to others, by giving and receiving in return.

We are each on a journey of trying, failing, adapting, improving, laughing, and growing into the people that we might become.

A better question to ask might have been: What do you want to do when you grow up?  How would you like to help people by using your unique set of talents?  A wise and thoughtful child might respond: “I would like help people on their journey.”

Hail to the bus driver man!

Slow Dance

Are you dancing too fast?

Have you ever watched kids on a merry-go-round,
or listened to the rain slapping on the ground?

Ever followed a butterfly’s erratic flight,
or gazed at the sun into the fading night?

You’d better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.

Do you run through each day on the fly,
when you ask “How are you?”, do you hear the reply?

When the day is done, do you lie in your bed,
with the next hundred chores running through your head?

You’d better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.

Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow,
and in your haste, not see his sorrow?

Ever lost touch, let a good friendship die,
’cause you never had time, to call and say “Hi”?

You’d better slow down, don’t dance so fast,
time is short, the music won’t last.

When you run so fast to get somewhere,
you miss half the fun of getting there.

When you worry and hurry through your day,
it’s like an unopened gift thrown away.

Life is not a race, do take it slower,
hear the music before your song is over.

~ David L. Weatherford

Value GROW Model – mobilise goal-oriented action

The Value GROW Model can be used to help people set and achieve goals

Value Grow Model

1. Background

The Value GROW Model is an adaption of the traditional “GROW Model” – a framework used widely for coaching individuals to set and achieve goals.

The traditional GROW Model has been used and popularised by various high profile coaches including Timothy Gallwey, Alan Fine and Sir John Whitmore.

2. Relevance

The Value GROW Model is a useful framework that can be used to help people set and achieve goals.

3. Importance

The traditional GROW Model is an effective coaching tool because the coach is not expected to provide any advice or direction. The coach does not act as expect but as an objective facilitator who provides a structure and asks shrewd open-ended questions to help the person being coached to solve their own problems. People have the answers within them, they just need help getting them out.

The significant innovation of the Value GROW Model is that it can be used to coach groups of people. Mobilising a group of people (like herding cats) is much more difficult than successful one-on-one coaching. You can help a group set clear goals, clarify the current situation, determine the available options, and make a specific plan of action. However, a single group member with vested interests or competing priorities can undermine progress and prevent the achievement of group goals.

4. Value GROW Model

4.1 Values

Shared values, this is the step which is missing from the traditional GROW Model.

When coaching an individual or group of people, the first step is to establish trust-based relationships. This can be done by building rapport, fostering mutual respect, finding common ground or by eliciting and embracing shared values. Trust is important because it promotes open communication. Without trust it will be difficult to speak openly about goals, motivations, desires and how to achieve them. You will also be less likely to admit a mistake, correct other people’s mistakes, or stick your neck out to help if things get tough (read: when things get tough).

In a one-on-one coaching situation establishing trust often happens naturally as the coach and the person being coached attempt to build a healthy working relationship. Don’t be fooled though, the relative ease of establishing trust between two people does not make the step less important – just more inevitable. The traditional GROW Model does not focus on trust building probably because it takes this step for granted.

By contrast, when mobilising a group of people, establishing trust-based relationships between members of the group cannot be left to chance. Rapport building, fostering mutual respect and finding common ground are techniques that work well for one-on-one coaching, but are less useful for group situations because of the potentially huge number of unique one-on-one relationships involved. You can build rapport with one or two people, but probably not with 15 people and definitely not with 50.

Side note: The number of unique one-on-one relationships in a group is proportional to the square of the number of people in that group. To get a feel for what that means, if you have two people then there can be only one relationship, fifteen people can make 105 unique one-on-one connections, and fifty people can make 1225 connections (for more on this, see Metcalfe’s law).

A proven way to establish trust-based relationships for groups is to elicit and embrace shared values. What do we believe which unites us? What are our shared values?

Establishing shared values is important for 3 reasons:

  1. Trust – establishing shared values builds trust. Lack of trust is a normal starting position (if this were not the case, we wouldn’t need so many lawyers) but lack of trust can completely undermine the process of setting and achieving goals. If you don’t trust the people you’re dealing with then your energies will be wasted on political correctness and horse trading;
  2. Openness – if you don’t trust the people you are dealing with, you wont be open with them. You need to be able to speak frankly because the focus should be on setting and achieving goals. You need to be willing to put forward untested ideas, ask clarifying questions and make suggestions. Lack of openness will be fatal;
  3. Group identity and personal ownership – setting group goals and deciding what actions need to be taken does not ensure success. Each individual needs to own the stated goals if they are going to exert real efforts towards achieving them. When mobilising a group, you need to help the group answer the question “who are we?” before moving on to the questions “where are we going?” and “how do we get there?”. Establishing shared values unites a group by creating a shared identity. Religions do this well, and a handful of exceptional companies have succeeded in establishing shared values (think Zappos). With shared values in hand, the group is no longer a collection of disparate individuals with competing interests but a unified entity with an existence of its own. Individual members, united by their shared values, can each take ownership of group goals.

Digression: The step of establishing trust based relationships is often overlooked. Why is this? One reason may be that fortune favours the brave. This sounds like a glib statement but what it means is that our societies are run by those who have the confidence (money and connections) to push themselves forwards. Having fought their way to the top, our brave and impetuous leaders may not feel compelled to ask the question: “what do we have in common?”. The idea of “working together based on shared values” probably sounds like pinko tree-hugging kumbaya-singing nonsense to many of the super elite Ivy League graduate masters of the universe. After all, they have more pressing concerns: Gulfstream G550 or Boeing BBJ?  But I digress.

If you want to coach people to set and achieve goals then establish trust-based relationships first.

If you skipped step one, stop, go directly to jail, do not pass go, do not collect $200.

4.2 Goals – what do you want to achieve?

Define one or more SMART Goals that the individual or group would like to achieve.

“A goal properly set is halfway reached.”
~ Zig Ziglar

4.3 Reality – what is the current situation?

Consider the current situation and the assets that are available to reach the stated goals.

This is an important step because you need to understand where you are before you can plot a path to some place else. Think of it as orientating a map. If you know where you want to get to but don’t know where you are then you will have no idea how to get where you want to go, even though you have the map.

Examples of questions to ask include:

  1. Where are you now?
  2. If you asked your [suppliers/customers/husband/wife/boss], what are 3 things that they would say about you?
  3. What assets are available to achieve the stated goals? Assets might include number of people, skills, training, technology, time available, cash, equipment, real property, intellectual property, you get the idea.

Reality check: After considering the current situation, the individual or group being coached should be able to answer the question: “do I/we possess the assets that will allow me/us to achieve the stated goals?”.

4.4 Options – what are the possible ways forward?

If they cannot pass the reality check then they will need to create a sub-goal “build more assets”. Consider the options for achieving that sub-goal.

If they can pass the reality check then consider the options for achieving the stated goals.

Examples of questions to ask include:

  1. What options have worked for other people in similar situations?
  2. What has already been tried? If it didn’t work, why not? What could you change?
  3. What other options are available?
  4. What if you had more of asset X, Y or Z?
  5. How should you evaluate the available options?
  6. What is the cost of doing nothing?
  7. Are there any foreseeable roadblocks? How could you bypass them?

4.5 Way forward – what’s the next step?

Commit to a specific plan of action, and describe the next steps.

Examples of questions to ask include:

  1. On a scale of 1–10, how committed are you to the stated goal(s)?
  2. What actions will you take, and by when? Who will be involved? What resources do you need?
  3. What are 3 actions you can take this week?
  4. What is the next step?
  5. On a scale of 1–10, how excited are you about the next step? Is there anything you could do to improve that score?

[For more information on consulting concepts and frameworks, please download “The Little Blue Consulting Handbook“.]

Hard economic times

When the economy slows, you’re likely to get RAPED, SHAFTED or SCREWED

Due to the current financial situation caused by the slowdown in the US economy, Congress has decided to implement a scheme to put workers of 50 years of age and above on early, mandatory retirement, thus creating jobs and reducing unemployment. This scheme will be known as RAPE (Retire Aged People Early).

Persons selected to be RAPED can apply to Congress to be considered for the SHAFT program (Special Help After Forced Termination).
Persons who have been RAPED and SHAFTED will be reviewed under the SCREW program (System Covering Retired-Early Workers).

A person may be RAPED once, SHAFTED twice and SCREWED as many times as Congress deems appropriate.

Persons who have been RAPED could get AIDS (Additional Income for Dependants & Spouse) or HERPES (Half Earnings for Retired Personnel Early Severance).

Obviously persons who have AIDS or HERPES will not be SHAFTED or SCREWED any further by Congress.

Persons who are not RAPED and are staying on will receive as much SHIT (Special High Intensity Training) as possible. Congress has always prided themselves on the amount of SHIT they give their citizens. Should you feel that you do not receive enough SHIT, please bring this to the attention of your Congressman, who has been trained to give you all the SHIT you can handle.

Sincerely,

The Committee for Economic Value of Individual Lives (EVIL)

PS – Due to recent budget cuts and the rising cost of electricity, gas and oil, as well as current market conditions, the Light at the End of the Tunnel has been turned off.

(source: unknown)

Google Bites Off More Than It Can Chew

12.50pm AUGUST 1st and I was trying to make plans for lunch (priority #1).  No problem, I’ll just check my gmail account and use Google Maps to find the address. 

Gmail, Google Maps, Google.com, Google.com.au and Google.com.hk failed to respond (for at least 20 minutes).  

There is some chance that there is just a problem with the internet connection, but that would prevent me from publishing this post, so the internet connection must be fine.

Perhaps the internets [sic] is broken?  Typing “bing.com” into the web browswer and pressing enter loads Bing instantly.  A few sample searches confirm that the internets [sic] is still out there and seems to be working just fine.

The only logical conclusion is that the Google server must have crashed today.  I have not experienced this before and (after spending my lunch hour writing this post) it makes me much more inclined to use Bing in future. Even though it was a 20 minute abberation, down time is not what we have come to expect from Google. 

Perhaps this problem only affected myself or the Hong Kong metro area (let me know if you experienced similar difficulties!).  Or maybe it was something more significant: the roll out of Google+ has stretched Google’s global server capacity to breaking point. 

But let’s not run away with ourselves. 

This post is not intended to be a Google bashing.  However, my experience today raised a couple of interesting and important questions relevant to any consumer orientated company operating in an industry with low switching costs:

  1. How much tolerance should we (as consumers) have for a company that fails to perform as we expect? 
  2. How can a company that offers an increasingly homogeneous product build consumer loyalty?
  3. How concerned should shareholders be that a momentary failure to perform could disillusion millions of consumers and cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars ($$$)? 

The switching cost of moving across to Bing is zero after all … time for lunch.