Monday, November 29, 2010

5 Steps to Jumpstart Your Productivity

Feel like you're drowning in work? Rosemary Tator of 2beffective LLC and Alesia Latson of the Latson Leadership Group might be able to help. They describe how in More Time for You: A Powerful System to Organize Your Work and Get Things Done (AMACOM). Here's a taste:

When our actions aren’t aligned with our intentions, then a breakdown in our productivity occurs. Here are five steps you can use when you find yourself misaligned and in conflict with yourself such that you are saying one thing and yet doing something altogether different.

Step 1: Notice What You Are Doing Without Judgment
The first sign of being in conflict with what you should be doing is when you feel the “warring.” The warring is a physical sensation in the body. It is an acknowledgment that you aren’t doing what you said you would do. It begins in the pit of your stomach; you feel nervousness and uneasiness. Then it travels to the palms of your hands, which become sweaty. At last, the struggle moves to your face as you furrow your brow.

Then, after the warring comes the thrashing. You tell yourself, “You’re doing it again! What’s wrong with you? How come you can’t do what you say you’re going to do? Look at you. You’ve squandered a half-hour. You could have been done already!”

Be aware of how long it takes you to notice your behavior. It may take forty-five minutes before you realize that the war is raging: “Oh, yeah, that’s right; I’m supposed to notice when I’m avoiding my task.” The next time, your reaction will be faster. The goal is to shorten the time it takes to notice your habit, thinking, or behavior. As soon as you recognize yours, you have a chance to make a choice.

Step 2: Name Your Feeling
Identify the feeling you are having right now. Pick two or three of the following words to describe what you are feeling: angry, sad, scared, glad, happy, overwhelmed, frustrated, put upon, controlled, resentful, unappreciated, unworthy, incompetent, irritated, impatient, lonely, isolated, defeated.

You can have your feelings, but you don’t have to be your feelings. You can have the feeling of being angry, but you don’t have to be angry. You can have the feeling of being unworthy, but you don’t have to be unworthy.

Next, reflect on your feeling in relation to the task you are doing. Does your feeling have anything to do with the task? Now that you know how you are feeling, decide whether you are still committed to completing the task you set out to accomplish. Once you’ve separated your feeling from a task at hand, you can choose again.

Step 3: Breathe
Use a breathing exercise to bring yourself back to balance. One of our favorite yoga exercises is called the Breath of Joy. It is a quick and refreshing breathing exercise that instantly lifts your spirits and clears your mind of negative thoughts and tension. It oxygenates your brain and rejuvenates your body.

The Breath of Joy is three inhalations taken with the arms swinging shoulder height forward and then fully outstretched to the side, over head and finishing with the arms swinging downward with the body in a slight forward crouching position. Inhale one-third of your capacity with each swing of the arms forward, to the side, and up. Then when you drop your arms down as you bend forward at the hips and knees, exhale with a “Ha!”

As you perform the Breath of Joy ensure that you are taking one continuous breath in three parts, rather than three separate breathes. Exhale loudly with a Ha!” (When your arms are swinging downward and you are bending at the hips and knees) allowing tension to escape from the body. Repeat the exercise several times. Remember it is one continuous breath in three parts. Each swing of the arms is to be done vigorously.

Step 4: Know That You Have a Choice
The great thing about having choices is that as long as you are breathing, you have an endless supply of them. They don’t expire or evaporate.

So you might say to yourself, “Oh, look, I noticed that I’m playing this little game with myself again, where I thrash myself for not working. I noticed it, and now I can make other choices.” You might make a choice to continue doing what you’re currently doing, take on the task you were avoiding, or choose something else altogether. By choosing, youare back in control, rather than your habit being in control. It’s not only about reaching your goals; it’s about living the life you create, including playing spider solitaire, if that strikes your fancy.

Step 5: Make a Two-Minute Choice
If you are still not ready to tackle your task, make a choice that you can live with for the next two minutes. Given the tender state that you are in at this moment, it is often best to make an initial choice that expires quickly. The goal of this short-term choice is to create movement that will get you unstuck.

For example, if you’re resisting getting up from watching television to check your e-mail, you may say to yourself, “For two minutes, I’m going to choose to get up, sit at my desk, and answer my e-mail and, after the two minutes, I can stop.” You can even set a timer. By the time the timer goes off or the two minutes have expired, you’ve taken the action to overcome the habit and are back in choice again.

s+b's Best Business Books 2010

As in the past, it was a real pleasure to edit the Best Business Books special section for strategy+business. We had a terrific team of eight expert reviewers, who chose a great list of books. Here's my introduction to the essays and a link to the entire section:

Two years after the financial collapse, the idea of hunkering down and waiting for a return to business as usual — as people did in previous recessions — seems a less and less viable strategy. But what should you do instead?

In this edition of our annual review of the year’s best business books, you will find a reading list that offers intriguing and compelling answers to this question. The list, assembled by a distinguished team of experts, starts with a select guide to the year’s tallest stack: titles that parse the recession of 2007–09 for lessons in preventing another collapse. The reviewer is David Warsh, who covered economics for the Boston Globe for more than two decades and won financial journalism’s Gerald Loeb Award twice.

Next up is Walter Kiechel III’s essay on the best business books on leadership — in a year when the spotlight revealed an unflattering view of too many of our leaders. Kiechel, whose career included stints as the managing editor of Fortune and the editorial director of Harvard Business Publishing, reviews a handful of books that confront “traditional notions of leadership with new circumstances,” including the rise of social networking. (We didn’t cover the topic of strategy this year, but Kiechel’s engaging book The Lords of Strategy: The Secret Intellectual History of the New Corporate World [Harvard Business Press, 2010] is featured in “The Right to Win,” by Cesare Mainardi with Art Kleiner, s+b, Winter 2010.)

The ramifications of technologically enabled societies play a starring role this year in University of Southern California Stevens Institute executive director Krisztina “Z” Holly’s review of the best books on innovation, and a supporting role in journalist Sheridan Prasso’s choices for the best books about China, now the world’s second-largest economy. Both are especially timely as organic growth becomes a top priority at many companies.

In the doing-more-with-less theme, strategy+business contributing editor Sally Helgesen returns with a selection of titles that call into question the “star” system of talent (a factor in the recent recession) and argue for a far more inclusive definition of human capital. In a complement to Helgesen’s essay, neuroscience author Judith E. Glaser examines the year’s best books on the human mind, which offer executives the means to improve their decision making and galvanize their workforce.

David K. Hurst, our longtime Books in Brief reviewer, finds that the Great Recession has not only emphasized the shortcomings of the managerial status quo, but also yielded a number of books that offer alternatives in its art and practice. Finally, University of Denver Daniels College of Business professor James O’Toole returns with his ninth consecutive annual best business books essay, which plumbs biographies and histories on subjects as diverse as Henry Luce and Chinese tea for business lessons that are as relevant as today’s headlines.

In a time of halting recovery, frugal consumers, tight money, and increasing government activism, companies urgently need winning strategies. For executives charged with creating and executing those strategies, this year’s best business books are a valuable source of insight and the essays here>

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Six Guidelines for Resolving Intergenerational Conflict

Publicist Cathy Lewis sent along this advice on managing multiple generations in the workplace. It's by Larry and Meagan Johnson of the father-daughter team behind Johnson Training Group, whose clients include American Express, Harley-Davidson, Nordstrom, etc., and its drawn from their new book, Generations, Inc.: From Boomers to Linksters--Managing the Friction Between Generations at Work (Amacom, 2010):

For the first time in history, there are five generations working side by side: the Traditional Generation (born pre-1945), Baby Boomers (born 1946-1964), generation X (born 1965-1980), Generation Y (1981-1995), and the Linkster Generation (born after 1995). Since conflicts often arise in a multigenerational environment, it's helpful to have some understanding of the differences between employees of distinct generations.

Each generation has been influenced by the major historical events, social trends, and cultural phenomena of their time, shaping their ideas about everything from expectations and perceptions about what the working environment will provide and how they should behave as employees, to company loyalty and work ethic.

Here are some guidelines for resolving intergenerational conflict:

1. Look at the generational factor. Is this conflict generational, or is there something else going on? For example, Traditionals and Baby Boomers don't like to be micromanaged, while Gen Yers and Linksters crave specific, detailed instructions about how to do things and are used to hovering authorities. There is almost always a generational component to conflict; recognizing this offers new ways to resolve it.

2. Consider the generational values at stake. Each generation is protecting a distinct set of values, and conflict may threaten these values. For example, Baby Boomers value teamwork, cooperation, and buy-in, while Gen Xers prefer to make a unilateral decision and move on--preferably solo.

3. Air different generations' perceptions. When employees of two or more generations are involved in a workplace conflict, they can learn a great deal by sharing their perceptions. For instance, a Traditional may find a Gen Yer's lack of formality and manners offensive, while a Gen Yer may feel dissed when this older employee fails to respect her opinions and input. Have each party use "I" statements to avoid potentially negative confrontations.

4. Find a generationally appropriate fix. You can't change people's life experience. But you can work with the set of workplace attitudes and expectations that come from it. So, for instance, if you have a knowledgeable Boomer who is frustrated by a Gen Yer's lack of experience coupled with his sense of entitlement, turn the Boomer into a mentor. Or you may have a Gen Xer who is slacking off and phoning it in. Instead of punishing him, give him a challenging assignment, the fulfillment of which is linked to a tangible reward.

5. Find commonality and complements. When we study generations, some common and complementary characteristics emerge--and these can be exploited when dealing with conflict between them. For instance, Traditionals and Generation Y employees both tend to value security and stability. Traditionals and Boomers tend to resist change--but both crave training and development. Gen X and Gen Y employees place a high value on workplace flexibility and work-life balance. Boomers and Linksters are most comfortable with diversity and alternative lifestyles. Gen Y and Linksters are technologically adept and committed to socially responsible policies.

6. Learn from each other. Each generation has valuable lessons to teach the next. For example, Traditionals and Boomers have a wealth of knowledge and tricks of the trade that younger workers need. Generation X employees are widely known for their fairness and mediation abilities. Generation Y workers are technology wizards. And Linksters hold clues to future workplace, marketing, and business trends.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

On the annual report

How well does your company’s annual report communicate and reinforce leadership intent and corporate values?

A good way to start answering this question is to read Milt Moskowitz's great analysis of Novartis's 2009 annual report for strategy+business. Moskowitz, who's on Business and Society Review's editorial board and co-developed Fortune’s “100 Best Companies to Work For” survey, starts like this:

The corporate annual report, a widely ignored document, could do with a makeover. It is generally devoid of transparency, candor, and life. Most companies seem to regard it as a chore. In recent years, these reports have been reduced in size. Many companies now greet shareholders with a bland statement placed in front of the 10-K report they file with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Talk about tough reading.

If you want to see just how big a missed opportunity this is, take a look at the annual reports of the Swiss pharmaceutical giant Novartis AG. The company sets a new standard for delivery of information in clear, nuanced, and felicitous the rest here.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Business ethics reader

I was pleased to see an article of mine included in Annual Editions: Business Ethics 10/11 (McGraw-Hill) edited by John Richardson at Pepperdine.

The article, "An Ethical Dilemma," was published in Selling Power in 2004. It uses the TAP Pharmaceutical case, in which the company paid an $875 million fine to the government, to illustrate the dangers of unethical and illegal sales practices. It goes on to describe how to build ethical integrity into the sales function in four ways, by:
  • Specifying boundaries that are supported by corporate values and policies;
  • Including ethics as a consideration in hiring decisions and training curriculum;
  • Building ethics into selling and compensation systems;
  • Enlisting unwavering managerial support in terms of compliance and enforcement.

The reader is part of McGraw's Annual Editions series, which publish selected articles from periodicals in topical collections and sell them for use in college courses. I wonder if I'll be getting a little payback for all the boring reading I had to do as a student.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Killer Quotes #1

"No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

- Samuel Johnson, quoted in Boswell's Life of Johnson

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

One question: Stephen H. Greer

I don't usually bother with entrepreneur's stories, unless they happen to include the creation of a major company. But Stephen Greer's Starting from Scrap: An Entrepreneurial Success Story coming in March from Burford Books proved to be a compulsive read.

Greer's improbable tale starts with him arriving in Hong Kong in Feburary 1993 at age 24 with a few thousand bucks, no job, not speaking Chinese, and no tangible prospects...other than the idea of getting rich in Asia's economic boom. And he does!

This kid from Pittsburgh ends up building a $250 million international scrap recycling business over the next 14 years. What happens in between is a story that every wannabe entrepreneur should read: first, because it vividly describes the highs, the lows, and the personal costs of starting your own business; and second, because anyone who has ever started a business on a bootstring will tell you it rings true.

My question for Stephen: Looking back, what personal trait turned out to be most important to your success? Here's his answer:

I would say persistence. What I uncovered in my pursuit of success as an entrepreneur is that most things do not come easily and that even if all the logic stacks up behind an idea, it is sweat, persistence, and determination that make it happen.

Along the way, I often wondered if I was going to make it and felt frustrated, if not cheated, that I was not achieving the planned results. Sometimes the problems were beyond my control: employee fraud, interference from corrupt government officials, even Mother Nature. It seemed the harder I swam, the more strongly the current pulled against me. But I truly felt I was doing the right things at the right time in the right place and believed that if I could just overcome the current hurdle, it would be smooth sailing going forward. Of course it was not, but that belief gave me the strength to stay in the battle.

My hunch turned out to be correct and I was generously rewarded when our plans started to achieve success. Ultimately, a large publicly-listed company recognized the value that our hard work had created and bought us out at an attractive valuation. But I think many people would have quit before achieving that successful end result because of the pain that had to be endured to get there.

Of course, my advice to up-and-coming entrepreneurs is to strenuously challenge and test the logic behind your idea. But if you still find merit in your plans after that and believe the market will value what you are doing, be tenacious and persistent in the pursuit of your plans and goals.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

ITWeb discovers Ayn Rand and Business

It's always exciting to find a book you've written getting attention in the press. In this case, it's Ayn Rand and Business and the press is Mandy de Waal, a columnist on South Africa's ITWeb. Here's what she wrote:

Born 105 years ago, Ayn experiencing a major revival. The Washington Post declared Randoids 'in' for 2010; Hollywood is remaking her movies; and Rand book sales are brisk. Yaron Brook, president of the Ayn Rand Institute, says sales of Atlas Shrugged are “going through the roof”. Rand's magnum opus made it into's top 50, selling more than 500,000 copies in 2009.

“The explosion in sales of Atlas Shrugged more than a half century after its initial publication is truly remarkable,” says Brook. “People are discovering the prescience of Ayn Rand's writing. They're seeing the policies of Atlas Shrugged villains Wesley Mouch and Cuffy Meigs acted out by our government officials today. They're looking for answers on how to stop government intrusion in our lives. Atlas Shrugged provides those answers, and many more.”

Rand's thoughts have never been more relevant given the global market collapse, followed by government rescue plans and other attempts at controlling markets. Laissez-faire capitalism was always Rand's ideal political-economic system. “It is a system where men deal with one another, not as victims and executioners, nor as masters and slaves, but as traders, by free, voluntary exchange to mutual benefit,” said Rand. “It is a system where no man may obtain any values from others by resorting to physical force, and no man may initiate the use of physical force against others. The government acts only as a policeman that protects man's rights; it uses physical force only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use, such as criminals or foreign invaders. In a system of full capitalism, there should be (but, historically, has not yet been) a complete separation of state and economics, in the same way and for the same reasons as the separation of state and church.”

Rand's personal journey was nothing short of astonishing, and saw her transform from a shopkeeper's daughter in communist Russia to one of the world's leading proponents of laissez-faire capitalism. In their book Ayn Rand and Business, Donna Greiner and Theodore Kinni interpret the fiction and philosophy of this staunch and radical champion for capitalism. Not only do Greiner and Kinni clearly explain the fundamentals of Objectivism, they describe how business leaders can integrate these philosophies into their personal lives and industry. Written in the spirit of Rand's own perspective, this business book is anchored in practicality, well organised and the rest here

Friday, January 15, 2010

Attention CPG marketers

These days, there is a lot of interest in shopper marketing -- that is, marketing aimed at influencing consumers as they are actually in the process of selecting and buying products, whether they are making a shopping list at home or downloading coupons or standing at the shelf. CPG companies are investing a ton of money in it. For example, P&G says it spends over $500 million annually on shopper marketing.

There are good reasons for this. Shopper marketing is a great way to engage consumers all along the path to purchase. It can be used to create more collaborative and successful trade relationships. And, it can drive sales -- no small feat in recessionary times.

But there is also a lot of confusion around shopper marketing. Few companies have figured out how to align it with the rest of their marketing processes and spend. And no one has really figured out how to measure its effectiveness -- either as a standalone investment or in relation to other spending.

I got a great education in all of these issues a couple of months ago, when I worked with Booz & Company partners Matt Egol and Ed Landry to write up the findings of a major shopper marketing study which they co-led with the Grocery Manufacturers Association and, a leading online consumer community. Whether you are looking for a primer on the subject or some cutting edge insights, it's worth a read. You can download it for free here...