The sweet spot between too much and “just right” planning

The sweet spot between too much and “just right” planning

powwer of planning

 

 

“You can’t do that. It’s not in the plan.”

How many times have you heard that line spoken at work?

Business plans, contingency plans, succession plans, project plans and the planning that goes into them are all good—until they aren’t.

Plans bring order and continuity. They can also be obstacles to innovation, inclusion, and creativity.

Think about the colleague who has a detailed plan for everything and refuses to deviate from it, no matter how compelling new information may be. Think about the company that fails to recognize the institutional bias that’s been embedded in its long-time succession and promotion plans.

It’s easy to come up with new ideas; the hard part is letting go of what worked for you two years ago, but will soon be out of date. ~Roger von Oech

A few years ago, I served on the inaugural steering committee for a new community conference intent on becoming an annual event. The first conference was a roaring success; the second even better. The third not so much.

One of original steering committee members who had stayed the course shared her diagnosis as to why the third event was unsuccessful. “The plan had worked well, so we relied on it too much. Because we stuck to the plan, we missed out on including some excellent panelists and speakers. No one wanted to step outside the lines and do something different.”

Ever been in that spot?

Through social conditioning, training, preference, or the desire for convenience, people fall into one of two mental traps about planning and get stuck in their thinking.

One camp frets that chaos will result if there’s inadequate planning and control. The other believes too much planning and control will stifle creativity. The concerns of both camps are valid.

If both concerns are valid, then what’s the problem?

The problem is either/or thinking—accepting the notion that planning is either about control or chaos.

Planning for and achieving successful outcomes require both chaos and control, both disorder and boundaries.

These paradoxes are equally important but essentially different management requirements according to the late management consultant Peter Drucker. Regardless of how contradictory dealing with both disorder and boundaries sounds, they’re interdependent. Like it or not, both are necessary for success. Either/or doesn’t work.

The Wright brother flew right through the smoke screen of impossibility. ~Charles Kettering

The natural tension between the disorder that improvisors thrive on and the boundaries that control freaks adore can be managed provided people are willing to be curious and flexible.

 

3 ways to find the sweet spot for planning

 

Doing three things aids us in keeping curiosity, flexibility, and success front and center as we first create and then execute our plans.

1) Have a general game plan.

Know what you want to accomplish. Have a timeline. Define roles, responsibilities, and measures of success. Think about what could go wrong and how to deal with problems. Identify resources and stakeholders. Be willing to flex or scrap it all and re-invent when circumstances shift.

2)  Get comfortable being slightly uncomfortable.

Recognize that always sticking to the plan provides a false sense of security that obscures new opportunities. Learn to be flexible with “how” the “what” of the plan is implemented. Be willing to challenge the end goal. Embrace and reward purposeful discomfort. Be willing to be vulnerable and sometimes not be certain of the next step.

3)  Leave room for serendipity.

Whether that interaction with an unintended outcome or moment of “aha!” realization is engineered by an app or a spontaneous stroke of fate, be open and receptive to the mad genius possibilities it presents. Don’t let existing plans become a straitjacket. Roll with the punches.

Serendipity. Look for something, find something else, and realize that what you’ve found is more suited to your needs than what you thought you were looking for. ~Lawrence Block

Finding the sweet spot between too much and “just right” planning takes time and patience, but it can be done.

Have how you learned to manage the tension between chaos and control?

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

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When being sure goes wrong

When being sure goes wrong

being too sure

 

 

 

“If the recognition program you’re putting together doesn’t reward people with money, Scott, it’s worthless.”

“You’re wrong about that, Bill. Making money isn’t the only reason people work.”

“I can’t believe how naïve you are, Scott. You do-gooders are all alike. None of you understand business.”

Could you imagine hearing a similar exchange where you work? Hearing two people get wrapped up in their views and be openly scornful of each other’s opinions? Happens a lot, doesn’t it? And, sadly, not only at work.

Leadership practices that favor control breathe life into this line of limiting thinking. Back in 1905, Max Weber, a sociologist and political economist, introduced the theory of bureaucratic management. Weber believed this style of management—with its impersonal rules, rigid requirements, command-and-control hierarchy, and machine-like focus on efficiency—was the most effective way to run an organization.

Some leaders today agree with Weber, thinking the bureaucratic style is the best and only way to manage. Convinced of the truth and rightness of their beliefs, those who support the bureaucratic style often act like Scott and Bill—self-righteous and dogmatic about their preference and dismissive of other points of view.

Dogmatism has been unflatteringly described as the arrogant assertion of opinions as truths or as a rigid state of mind in which it’s believed that things don’t change. The dictionary definition of dogma is a principle or set of principles that are laid down by an authority as being incontrovertibly true.

Saying something is incontrovertibly true is rigid. It means the position is undeniable, beyond question, irrefutable. That’s black-and-white, right-and-wrong absolute. Not pretty.

Having principles and believing in them, living them, is good. That goodness starts to become bad, however, around the word incontrovertible. When people take the position that their view is incontestable, that’s a problem.

How so?

Because passion becomes prejudice. Intolerance is tolerated. Polarization prevails. Listening lessens. Voices are silenced. Hearts and minds close. Curiosity ceases. Flexibility vanishes. Learning stops.

There’s no room for differences.

No one says I’m going to take this job and become dogmatic, but sometimes people do just that.

Even worse, they’re unaware of having done it. Rigidity of thought and practice are like thieves that come furtively in the night and steal flexibility, growth, and change. The opportunity for inclusion, too.

When someone gets caught up in dogmatism, they can find themselves suddenly arguing with everyone, amazed at how stupid people have become. They sneer at other’s inability to see the wisdom of their ways. They’re constantly defending their turf, incensed about what their colleagues do or don’t do.

Could that be you?

Are you so sure you’re dogmatic about it?

Are you that person who’s arguing with everyone? Feeling some concern that your certainty may have quietly hardened into dogma?

If you are, do a self-audit.

Ask yourself these seven questions to determine if your sureness about a topic, person, belief, etc., has become inflexible and dogmatic.

1) Has my communication style become abrupt and dismissive?

Hardcore dogmatists believe that it isn’t worth their time to converse with nonbelievers because they have nothing of value to offer. A dogmatist will change the topic, give short answers, or ignore what’s said. They may lob insults—how dumb is that—trivialize, or harshly criticize. They look away, smirk, roll their eyes, sigh, or interrupt. They’ll use disdainful hand gestures, maybe even walk away.

2) Do I feel more anger and despair about differences than I used to?

Because they know they’re right, dogmatists look to impose their beliefs on others. When that proves impossible, feelings of anger and despair follow. They’re frustrated in dealing with people who refuse to see how misinformed and mistaken they are. Dogmatists are fond of phrases like should be, always are, and never, and use them frequently. When their expectations are unmet, the dogmatist feels anger, frustration, and contempt for fools.

3) Do I look for ways to prove that I’m never wrong?

Dogmatists pull themselves up by beating others down. They don’t make mistakes or have errors of judgments. Only the “others” who are wrong do that. A dogmatist knows the truth, so they don’t have to agonize over it. Nor will they compromise or move toward moderation.

4) Have I changed my circle of friends and only associate with those who share my beliefs?

Dogmatic individuals are confident about their beliefs. They hold on to them even when evidence contradicts them, so associating with people who think similarly is comforting as well as affirming.

5) Have I stopped listening to people who have opinions that differ from mine?

Dogmatists focus on their certainties. They’re interested in other people as long as they support their image of rightness. A dogmatist doesn’t see any way for someone who doesn’t share the same beliefs to make a good point, so they feel no need to listen to them.

6) Do I reach conclusions quickly based on how I see the world?

Dogmatists use an all-or-nothing, my-way-or-the-highway approach to life. That includes decision-making and problem-solving. If one solution to a problem clearly aligns with a dogmatist’s perspective, they select that option and view time spent seeking out alternative solutions a waste of time.

7) Do I see the world in terms of black or white?

To a dogmatist, the world is simple. People are either a good guy or a bad one. Someone is either a friend or foe. Someone’s position is either right or wrong. Dogmatists don’t see complexity or nuance. A problem with two answers that are both right yet contradictory doesn’t exist. There’s a single category or label for everything and everyone.

Recognize yourself in any of these questions?

If you do, reach out to a trusted friend or colleague. Ask for their help in finding less rigid and irrefutable territory. You, and those around you, will be happier.

P.S. Please indulge me…for purposes of illustration, I went to the off-the-charts extreme in defining a dogmatist.

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

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Perfection = an overrated waste of effort

Perfection = an overrated waste of effort

perfection overrated

 

I couldn’t believe it.

She unmade my side of the bed because I didn’t do it right.

My house guest was having problems with her shoulder. She said doing simple things like making up a bed aggravated her discomfort. I volunteered to help, and she agreed. Her ground rule for accepting help was that she would make up one side of the queen-sized bed and I’d do the other. Worked for me. We agreed she’d give me a shout-out the next morning when she was ready to make up her bed.

Puzzled, and feeling a little miffed, I walked over to the side she’d made up. Perhaps she had a different way of tucking in the top sheet. Nope, we’d both done hospital corners. Granted, her angle on the fold was a little crisper than mine. That was the only difference I could see.

What she saw was different.

My side wasn’t perfect like hers was, and she wasn’t going to settle for less than perfect even if it made her wince to first pull out and then redo my work.

Pain is too big a price to pay for perfection.

In the past, I’ve done my dances with perfection, and I refuse to dance with it anymore. Perfection is an unworthy goal. It’s over-rated, not worth the added time, stress, and frustration.

Perfection is overrated, boring. It’s the imperfections—the vulnerabilities, the weaknesses, the human elements—that make us who we are, that make us real, beautiful…necessary. ~Guy Harrison

Before you dance another dance with perfection, give the following items a good think and ask yourself if perfection is truly worth it.

 

9 ways perfection is overrated

 

  1. Most people don’t recognize perfection when they see it.

Why? Because people describe perfection differently. Perfection is an absence of flaws or defects. Perfection, like beauty, rests in the eye of the beholder. I didn’t see any flaws or defects in my side of the made-up bed. My friend did.

  1. Lost opportunity cost.

Rendering anything with flaw or defect takes time—the time to do and time to redo until perfection is achieved. Some perfectionists are chronic procrastinators. They put off starting something because they’re concerned about not being able to complete the task perfectly.

  1. Miss out on simple joys.

It’s hard to look perfect eating an ice cream cone outside on a hot, summer day. There’s a good chance ice cream will drip down the cone and your chin. It might drip on your shirt and your fingers. But, isn’t all that part of the glorious fun?

  1. Present as needy and narrow-minded.

Perfectionism is a prime breeding ground for my way or the highway thinking, which is a death knell for diversity of thought, opinion, and perspective.

  1. Perfectionism feeds sex and gender stereotypes.

The perfect woman is beautiful, thin, and flawlessly groomed all the time. The perfect man is strong, a protector and provider. Both thoughts are poppycock, full of stereotypical thinking that harms young girls and boys.

  1. Being perfect doesn’t automatically provide approval and affirmation.

Stop looking outside yourself for approval and affirmation. Give it to yourself, and good enough will do.

  1. Perfectionism will make you sick.

Perfectionists have greater stress. They’re at greater risk for depression, high blood pressure, anxiety, and mental health problems.

  1. Fuel negative emotions.

Striving unsuccessfully for that elusive state where there are no flaws or defects makes people feel inferior, resentful, unappreciated, and unfulfilled. They’re full of self-doubt. Maybe anger, too. Perfectionism reduces people’s level of playfulness and willingness to take risks.

  1. Consumed and paralyzed by fear.

Perfectionism is a cesspool of fear. Perfectionists fear failure, not measuring up, making a mistake, not looking perfect, getting hurt, being exposed as a fraud, and being alone.

Perfectionists often feel that they must always be strong and in control of their emotions. A perfectionist may avoid talking about personal fears, inadequacies, insecurities, and disappointments with others, even with those with whom they are closest. ~Shauna H Springer Ph.D.

Wanting to be a good person who does things well is a worthy goal. Looking to do those things perfectly isn’t. Being perfect is an overrated experience that serves no one well.

Perfectionism is not about striving for excellence or healthy striving. It’s…a way of thinking and feeling that says this: ‘If I look perfect, do it perfect, work perfect and live perfect, I can avoid or minimize shame, blame and judgment.’ ~Brene Brown

Ready to give yourself permission to let go of overrated perfection and instead do your best and accept good enough?

I agree! Perfection is an overrated waste of time, effort, and energy. Click To Tweet

 

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

 

 

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Lead with your brains, not your looks

Lead with your brains, not your looks

more than body parts

 

Maybe she was just a bot looking to rack up a high follower count. That’s what I hope to be the case. Why? Because every picture on her social media account emphasized one of her body parts.

Her parts were lovely, but skin wrinkles. Boobs and bums sag.

So, this is what puzzles me. Why would a woman want to define herself by something that’s fleeting when so much of what makes a woman unique and wonderful is everlasting?

It breaks my heart to see a cover picture on social media of a woman’s dramatic cleavage or sumptuously curved booty instead of her face. Those body parts are amazing things to have (can only imagine), however, women are so much more than their body parts.

A woman’s whole self—her personality, intellect, abilities—can get separated from her appearance in unhealthy ways.

What we see in the media

 

Much of what we see in the media encourages gender stereotypes, unhealthy thinking about body image, or objectifies women. Consider:

  • 98 percent of the women portrayed in advertisements are ultra-thin with large breasts. Only 5 percent of women have that body type.
  • Women were on the cover of Rolling Stone magazine 30 percent of the time between 1967 and 2009. 83 percent of those images were sexualized. Only 15 percent of the images of men were sexualized.
  • The average woman is 5’ 3” tall and weighs 164 pounds; the average model is 5’ 11” tall and weighs 115 pounds.
  • 81 percent of 10-year old girls in the U.S. are afraid of being fat.
  • From 2006 to 2016, ads portrayed just one in four women as having a job (and to top it off women were 48 percent more likely to be shown in the kitchen).
  • Between 2006 and 2016 women were shown in sexually revealing clothing six times more than men. In 2017 that dropped from six times to five times, but the number of female characters shown in sexual revealing clothing overall remained the same (one in 10).
  • In some ads, a woman is a faceless object, reduced to features which are sexualized as objects of desire.
  • Women’s body parts are four times more likely to be included in advertisements than a man’s.

If women aren’t vigilant about monitoring these influences, they can begin to see themselves as a collection of body parts—only good for looking good. This inclination to reduce a woman to “piece parts” is borne out by the findings that women are more likely to be seen by other women and men as parts rather than as a whole person. Men are seen as a whole person.

What research says about a focus on body parts

 

This priming to focus on body parts and appearance negatively impacts women’s views of gender equality and social issues. Psychologist Rachel Calogero observes that “women who were primed to evaluate themselves based on their appearance and sexual desirability had a decreased motivation to challenge gender-based inequalities and injustices.” Ugh.

Are women and their worth doomed to being judged by their appearance and body parts?

Fortunately, no.

The body parts researchers modified their experiment to prime individuals to think of women as a whole, not a body part. The result? “The sexual body part recognition bias appeared to be alleviated. Women were more easily recognizable in the context of their whole bodies instead of their various sexual body parts.”

For a little while some years ago, I let myself get sucked into to the appearance-is-everything mindset and became the gal with killer shoes and size 8 clothes.

I wanted to be known for looking good and for being smart and powerful. The last two were getting lost in the shuffle because I was leading with appearance. I was miserable.

7 ways to get comfy in your own skin

 

I learned to get comfy in own skin—liking myself no matter my dress size—after learning seven life lessons:

  1. Appreciate that appearance is fleeting but that talents last a lifetime
  2. Understand that the best power comes from the inside out, not the outside in
  3. Surround ourselves with people who appreciate us for what we are, not how we look
  4. Believe that we are not just a collection of body part but rather the beautiful sum of our looks, brains, personality, and talents
  5. Accept that looking good, not air-brushed perfection, is enough
  6. Boot the fellas who are more interested in arm candy than a woman with brains and opinions
  7. Celebrate who and what we are, smiles lines, muffin tops, and less-than-perfect upper arms included.

What has helped you get comfy in your skin? What insights do you share with your daughter? Grand-daughter? Female friends self-conscious about their appearance?

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

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31 flavors of humility

31 flavors of humility

humility and truth

 

 

Wouldn’t it be lovely if humility smelled like warm chocolate chip cookies so we could easily find ours when we lost it?

A small group of us were sharing comeuppance stories—times when we’d gotten too big for our britches and had taken a big fall from grace.

Betsy’s fall was the most dramatic. She’d been off-the-charts successful in her marketing job for a cosmetics company. Another company recruited her for their CMO job, complete with huge salary, signing bonus, and jaw-dropping perks. Betsy enjoyed her amazing perks for only five months. The CEO who’d recruited her fired her, saying Betsy was overly self-righteous, too self-important, and unnecessarily scornful of employees who weren’t executives.

“Go. Now. Be gone,” said the CEO as she made a sweeping away gesture with her hand. “I want you out of here immediately.”

Betsy said the CEO’s office had glass walls. So, while the CEO’s words were unheard by others, she saw everyone watching the dismissive gestures. And smiling.

It took Betsy five months to be able to say she was glad the humiliating experience had happened. Without it, she said, she would have remained too big for her britches, believing the myths about herself. She said she might have even become more unbearable.

“I got what I deserved. I let my success go to my head,” she said.

As do too many others.

Getting what we deserve

The endless stream of self-aggrandizement, the recitation of one’s specialness, of how much more open and gifted and brilliant and knowing and misunderstood and humble one is. ~Anne Lamott

Not letting success steal our self-awareness is at the heart of staying humble. We control whether that happens or not. Either we let success go to our head and become self-important jerks, or we don’t.

Success isn’t some kind of a sentient being that inhabits our bodies, takes control of our mind, and miraculously makes us someone new.

Becoming successful or powerful or rich only shows what we really were all the time.

Hubris is an accessory we acquire.

If we were kind before being successful, we stay kind. If we were thoughtful, we stay thoughtful. If we were open-minded, we stay open-minded.

Pride makes us artificial and humility makes us real. ~Thomas Merton

How could Betsy and the rest of us have stayed grounded enough so we didn’t have a comeuppance story to tell? A smorgasbord of choices and options exists. To make sure we don’t get too big for our britches, all we have to do is be self-aware.

If you’re looking for suggestions for how to avoid having a comeuppance story, here’s 31 ideas to get you started. Take a look and think about what could work for you.

31 things to do

  1. Practice gratitude
  2. Admit to being wrong, don’t double down
  3. Accept challenges with grace
  4. Adopt a beginner’s mindset
  5. Focus on the effort, not the outcome
  6. Ask for feedback and really listen to it
  7. Confront your prejudices
  8. Choose purpose over passion
  9. Be curious and ask questions
  10. Kill your pride
  11. Appreciate others
  12. Accept good enough
  13. Understand your weaknesses and faults
  14. Be gentle with the weaknesses and faults of others
  15. Keep your abilities in perspective
  16. Don’t fear failure
  17. Accept others as they are
  18. Don’t measure yourself by material possessions
  19. Practice self-compassion
  20. Live your values and do so with grace
  21. Let others live their values with grace, too
  22. See happiness as a by-product of purpose
  23. Give credit where it’s due
  24. Connect deeper than generalities
  25. Don’t evaluate others by their position or status
  26. Accept criticism as a gift
  27. Laugh at yourself
  28. Forgive
  29. Be mindful of the expectations you set for yourself and others
  30. Listen more, talk less
  31. Serve someone

Humility is a quiet gift we give ourselves and others.

Quiet anything easily gets lost or overlooked in today’s hurly-burly pace of life. But, as with most good and worthwhile things in life, we have to want quiet humility. Have to work at having it. Have to never lose sight of its importance.

Owning the responsibility to maintain our humility makes all the difference.

Image credit before quote added: Pixabay

 

 

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