Saturday, August 28, 2010
21st-century homesteading: More families seek simple, self-sufficient, low-impact lifestyles - KansasCity.com
Thursday, August 19, 2010
A listener wrote to say she was selecting some of her favorite commentaries to put into a notebook for her 12-year-old son. She said she was going to underline portions she thought were particularly pertinent.I love it whenever someone wants to share my thoughts, especially with children, but I've come to realize how difficult it can be to successfully pass on what we think is great wisdom, especially to our own children.
2. Most young people get very defensive very quickly when they think advice is simply disguised criticism. And when they get defensive, they don’t process advice in a constructive manner.
3. Though it's easier said than done, the most effective and rewarding method is to convey or elicit information and insight in the setting of a discussion. Ask an open-ended question as to what the child thinks, knows, or has observed about issues raised in a news event, movie, or a comment. Be sure the question is not just another masked way of conveying a criticism.
4. Don't try to convey the encyclopedia of wisdom in one sitting. Break up your 'lesson plans' into small pieces and be very selective as to the time and place you begin the discussion.
5. If you want real progress, tell the child about your own shortcomings and challenges both past and present. Moral humility invites reflection.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
Tuesday, August 17, 2010
The speaker had just been introduced. A slide behind him had his name and institution on it. A program in each member of the audience's hands had the same information. And still, how did he begin?
'Good Morning, my name is Gary Anderson and I'm a managing director at Acme and I'm here today to talk about...' Yet again the chance to make a powerful first impression by a presenter was lost. The audience settled in for another mediocre presentation, and they were not wrong. All too often business leaders forget the classic adage 'you never get a second chance to make a first impression.' In both written and oral communication it's just too easy to begin with the mundane, the uninspired, and the ordinary.As we're designing presentations or crafting emails or letters, it's acceptable, perhaps even easier, to start by writing the heart of our content. How will we shape it? What flow makes sense? What matters most to my audience? What aspects must be included and what elements are optional if time, or space, allows? But once the draft of your communication is complete, then step back and consider the total package you are delivering to your reader or audience and decide carefully how you wish to begin.
Each year we likely see hundreds of presentations at work or professional conferences. The speaker who commands our attention from their first breath is one we want to listen to. At TED 2009, Elizabeth Pisani, an AIDS researcher with unconventional methods of field research, did just that. She looked out at the audience and began 'People do stupid things; that's what spreads HIV.' She had us. She then went on to discuss four distinct groups of people (drug users, sex workers, gay men, and health policy nerds) and what each found to be rational. Her talk, from her very first breath, was brilliant, well-designed, and powerful. It began well and just got better.
In this era of double-digit unemployment, many of us are either job-hunting or helping friends and colleagues who are searching for employment. After crafting a cover letter, set it aside, do something else as a distraction, and then return to it with fresh eyes. Imagine you are the hiring manager and this has landed on your desk or in your in-box. Does the letter capture your attention from the very first moment?
All too often the letters I see are all about the applicant. 'I found your ad on my favorite job website and I think I'd be great for...' Consider who are you writing to and how you can make a first impression that gets out of your world and into his or hers. 'Your need for a motivated self-starter (from the job description) matches my desire to move from product sales to selling service.' The point is to think of the recipient's desk, his priorities and needs and address those. Your name is on the return address portion of the envelope, at the top of your resume, and at the top of the cover letter, so resist beginning with 'My name is Beth Jones and I want...' Consider the reader.
While we may only see scores of business letters in a year, we see thousands of emails. There, the first impression is obvious: the subject line. Pause from this post for just one moment and glance through your inbox right now. Don't open and answer any emails, but just see how many actually capture your attention with the subject line. I'm guessing fewer than 10%. Worse yet, many subject lines give us no clue what's contained in the email. 'Follow-up from yesterday' or 'update on project' do nothing to capture our attention or give us a sense of what's in the email. So many executives read and respond from their BlackBerries or iPhones, we need to make every single character count.
The key to writing a powerful subject line is to do it last, right before you hit send, not before you've written the email. Yes, I know, that requires returning to the top of the email to fill in the subject line after you've finished writing the email. But only then do you really know what you're saying in the body of the email. It's also a fantastic opportunity to double-check that you have the correct recipients listed on the email (not too many, not too few).
We have hundreds of opportunities each week to make a first impression. Whether it's a formal presentation to hundreds of strangers, a cover letter to a firm we'd like to hire us, or an email to a group of coworkers about next week's company picnic, consider that first impression and make it count.
JD Schramm, Director of the Mastery in Communication Initiative at Stanford's Graduate School of Business, teaches a variety of communication course to MBA students. He can be reached at email@example.com and is more likely to respond if the subject line captures his attention.
Here's the paradox. Ask CEOs about their top priorities and inevitably they will cite talent as one of their top priorities. If this is the case, how do we explain the enormous popularity of Dilbert and The Office, which so eloquently describe the stultifying effect of our work environments on talent?
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Because I see canceled flights as normal, I don’t go into a tailspin when it happens. I know what to do to either find an alternate way of getting there or, at the very least, minimize, the damage that may come from not getting where I wanted to be at the anticipated time. All around me I see people, some of whom are obviously seasoned travelers, going into complete state of panic and anger over what is really a very common occurrence. I wonder if they just haven’t been paying attention for the past 20 years.
This idea that “whatever happens is normal” is what separates those who handle change effectively from those who go ballistic at the slightest deviation from what they had expected. We’ve all seen both types. On the one hand are the people who, if you tell them that there’s been a change in plans, policy, schedule, the menu, or virtually everything else, will quite completely lose it. They will either sink into a fuming funk or launch into a screaming rant. Either way, they don’t do well when the plans change.
The other end of the spectrum are the people who, regardless of what kind of changes you throw at them, seem to handle problems almost effortlessly. These people tend to be among the most valuable in an organization. The value of a person with the ability to perform well under pressure cannot be overestimated in a world where constant pressure is the norm.
Adapted from Becoming a Category of One by Joe Calloway.
Friday, August 13, 2010
In the wake of a continual parade of scandals, there has been a lot of talk concerning codes of ethics. I've written dozens of codes and have a healthy respect for their value as an element of a corporate culture, but I wince at the unreasonable expectations attached to these documents.First of all, ethics codes don't make people ethical. They don't make bad people good. Nor do they make people with bad judgment wise. Most of the very bad behavior we've seen in recent years would not have been prevented by an ethics code.
You see, there are two aspects to ethics: discernment – knowing right from wrong – and discipline – having the moral will power to do what's right. A code can help define what's right and acceptable and provide a basis for imposing sanctions on those who don't follow it. But unless it reinforces an established ethical culture, it won't do much to assure that people do what's right.
Thursday, August 12, 2010
5 Leadership Lessons: Scott Berkun on Public Speaking
Even if you don’t speak professionally, you will find Scott Berkun’s Confessions of a Public Speaker, helpful in navigating any speaking situation. Berkun is refreshingly candid about his own mistakes and successes. It is an entertaining and practical behind-the-scenes look at the speaking profession; the good and the bad. He shares what has worked and what hasn’t in getting over the fear of speaking, creating a talk that people want to hear, and what to do when things go wrong.
Most people listening to presentations around the world right now are hoping their speakers will end soon. That’s all they want. They’re not judging as much as you think, because they don’t care as much as you think. Knowing this helps enormously. …The things speakers obsess about are the opposite of what the audience cares about. They want to be entertained. They want to learn. And most of all, they want you to do well. Many mistakes you can make while performing do not prevent those things from happening. It’s the mistakes you make before you even say a word that matters more. These include the mistakes of not having an interesting opinion, of not thinking clearly about your point, and of not planning ways to make those points relevant to your audience. Those are the ones that make the difference.
No matter how much you hate or love this book, you’re unlikely to be a good public speaker. The marketing for this book likely promised you’d be a better speaker for reading it. I think that’s true on one condition: you practice (which I know most of you won’t do). Most people are lazy. I’m lazy. I expect you’re lazy, too. There will always be a shortage of good public speakers in the world, no matter how many great books there are on the subject. It’s a performance skill, and performance means practice.
The easiest way to be interesting is to be honest. People rarely say what they truly feel, yet this is what audiences admire most. If you can speak a truth most people are afraid to say, you’re a hero.
All good public speaking is based on good private thinking. …This means the difference between you and JFK and Martin Luther King has less to do with your ability to speak—a skill all of us use hundreds of times every day—than it does the ability to think and refine rough ideas into clear ones.
Avoiding Boredom. A speaker must set the pace for the audience if he wants to keep their attention. … Think of your opening minute as a movie preview: fill it with drama, excitement, and highlights for why people should keep listening. Be confident in what you say and do. If your talk consists of several problems important to the audience, and you promise to release the tension created by those problems by solving each one, you’ll score big.
Sam, a supervisor, was dumbfounded as he watched Bill diligently dig holes while Chuck, after waiting a short interval, filled them. When he demanded an explanation, Bill was indignant: 'Chuck and I have been doing this job for more than 10 years. What’s your problem?''Are you telling me that for 10 years you’ve been digging and filling empty holes?' Sam replied.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
Ten Truths about LeadershipIn the last 30 years James Kouzes and Barry Posner, authors of the highly regarded leadership classic The Leadership Challenge, have studied leaders all over the world. They understand leadership.
The question they get time and time again is “What’s new in leadership?” They answer that while the context of leadership as changed dramatically, “the content of leadership has not changed much at all. The fundamental behaviors, actions, and practices of leaders have remained essentially the same since we first began researching and writing about leadership over three decades ago. Much has changed, but there’s a whole lot more that’s stayed the same.” That is probably the fundamental truth of leadership development. With that understanding, we can develop leaders in all contexts and weed out fact from fiction.
Based on thirty years of research—more than one million responses to their leadership assessment—Kouzes and Posner have gathered together in The Truth about Leadership, the ten truths that have stood the test of time and they hold true both globally and cross-generationally. They devote a chapter to each of these ten concepts:
Truth #1 You Make a Difference. Before you lead you have to believe that you can have a positive impact on others. When you believe you can make a difference, you position yourself to hear the call to lead.
Truth #2 Credibility Is the Foundation of Leadership. If people don’t believe in you, they won’t willingly follow you. You must do what you say you are going to do. This means being so clear about your beliefs that you can live them every day.
Truth #3 Values Drive Commitment. You need to know what you believe in because you can only fully commit to the organization or cause when there is a good fit between what you value and the organization values. This is true too, for the people you lead.
Truth #4 Focusing on the Future Sets Leaders Apart. You have to be forward looking; it’s the quality that most differentiates leaders from individual contributors. You need to spend time reflecting on the future. Big dreams that resonate with others inspire and energize.
Truth #5 You Can’t Do It Alone. Leadership is a team sport, and you need to engage others in the cause. You need to enable others to be even better than they already are.
Truth #6 Trust Rules. To enlist others, you need trust. Build mutual trust; you must trust others too.
Truth #7 Challenge Is the Crucible of Greatness. Great achievements don’t happen when you keep things the same. Change invariably involves challenge, and challenge tests you. It introduces you to yourself. It brings you face-to-face with your level of commitment, your grittiness, and your values. It reveals your mindset about change.
Truth #8 You Either Lead by Example or You Don’t Lead at All. You have to go first as a leader. That’s what it takes to get others to follow your lead.
Truth #9 The Best Leaders Are the Best Learners. Learning is the master skill of leadership. Leaders are constant improvement fanatics.
Truth #10 Leadership Is an Affair of the Heart. Leaders love what they’re doing and those they lead. Leaders make others feel great themselves and are gracious in showing their appreciation.
These truths should form the basis of any leadership development program. Even more, they are the motivation behind the right kinds of behaviors that go into the formation of good and sustainable leadership.
There are no shortages of problems and opportunities…. Leadership is not about telling others they ought to solve these problems. It’s about seeing a problem and accepting personal responsibility for doing something about it. And it’s about holding yourself accountable for the actions that you take. The next time you see a problem and say “Why doesn’t someone do something about this?” take a look in the mirror and say instead, “I’ll be the someone to do something about it.”
A young boy was walking with his father along a country road. When they came across a very large tree branch, the boy asked, 'Do you think I could move that branch?'
His dad said, 'Try again.' This time, as the boy struggled with the branch, his father joined him and together they pushed the branch aside.
'Son,' the father said, 'the first time you didn't use all your strength. You didn't ask me to help.'
This is an important lesson. There are many things we can't do alone, but that doesn't mean we can't get them done. We all are surrounded by resources that can be mobilized to help us achieve our goals, including family, friends, and faith. Sometimes we fail to ask for help because of pride or stubbornness. Sometimes we think it's a sign of weakness to admit we need a hand. And sometimes we don't even think about asking for help. Whatever the reason, it's a waste.
It's important that we learn to use all our strength; this includes inner resources such as discipline, courage, and even love. But it also includes outer resources. Just as we should be willing to help others, we should be willing to ask the help of others. It's one of the great things about being human.
This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.
*The story is derived from a story told by David Wolpe in Teaching Your Children About God (Harper Perennial 1995).
Monday, August 9, 2010
1) Don’t get into an argument
2) Empathize with them
3) Lend a helping hand
4) Stick to light topics
5) Ignore the negative comments
6) Praise the person for the positive things
7) Hang out in 3’s or more people
8) Be responsible for your reaction
9) Reduce contact with them / Avoid them
Thursday, August 5, 2010
Wendell Berry and the Great Economy
Are You a Hundred Percent Leader?Research done by Leadership IQ indicates that 77% of leaders believe their employees are not giving 100%. Employees don’t seem to argue the point. 72% of employees admit that they in fact aren’t giving 100%.
If you want your employees to give 100%, you need to be the kind of leader that creates Hundred Percenters—a 100% Leader. In Hundred Percenters, Mark Murphy, CEO of Leadership IQ, says that the “two most important differentiating factors in separating exceptional from average leaders are Challenge andConnection.” Challenge is the extent to which a leader pushes his or her people. Connection is the strength of the emotional connection they build with their people. You need to decide how much you want to challenge your people and how tight an emotional bond you want to build with them.
The age-old question plaguing leaders is whether it’s better to be loved or feared. What our research seems to suggest is that while fear doesn’t lead to superior results, it’s also true that if being loved means you don’t push people, that’s not so great either. The balance seems to be that leaders should be loved, but they should be loved for pushing people to give 100%, not for coddling or appeasing them.The degree to which you challenge and connect with your people will determine the results you get. Based on their research, Murphy has divided leaders into four basic types: Appeaser, Avoider, Intimidator and 100% Leader. With the challenges leaders face, appeasing, avoiding or intimidating can seem like necessary approaches; the path of least resistance. But they don’t produce fully engaged and accountable people. In practice, the four types are described this way:
Working for the Appeaser. You’re given enjoyable assignments, you’re allowed to spend most of your time on work that plays to your strengths, your boss gives you lots of positive feedback, and your boss seems to care most about making sure you’re really happy.
Working for the Intimidator. You’re given seemingly impossible assignments; you don’t feel like you’ve got all the skills you need to complete those assignments; when your boss gives you feedback, it’s usually pretty harsh and critical; and your boss seems to care most about achieving his goals no matter who’s with him at the end.
Working for the Avoider. Your boss doesn’t really force too many assignments on you, you’re not really required to learn new skills, your boss lets you figure out for yourself how you’re doing, and your boss seems to care most about not getting in your way.
Working for the 100% Leader. You’re given really challenging assignments, you’re required to learn new skills even in areas you might not consider to be your natural strengths, your boss gives you lots of constructive and positive feedback, and your boss seems to care most about pushing you to maximize every ounce of your potential.
What kind of leader are you?