For Well Over a Decade

“But, I thought, to do planning, the first step was to create some goals?” asked Nicole. “That’s what we have always done.”

I nodded. “That’s where most people start. And goals are important.” I stopped. “How do we make sure we are going after the right goals? And how do we make sure the targets are set high enough?”

“Well, we have to know where we are headed,” Nicole replied.

“Exactly, and that is what we have to define first.”

Nicole winced.

“There are a number of ways to do that,” I said. “We could take a picture, draw a picture, describe a picture of where we are going?”

“What do you mean?”

“A company I know, just finished a brand new building, something, as a team, they had been working toward as long as I knew them. For years, hanging on the wall, there was an artist’s rendering of that building. That was it. That was the vision. And everyone who walked by or sat in that office knew precisely where the company was headed.

“Year after year, without wavering, that picture stood inside the heads of the management team. It drove them to perform with that single thought in mind. Two weeks ago, they had their grand opening. It is amazing how that single visual picture drove their thinking, their performance, their goals for well over a decade.

“The first step in planning is vision.”

The Future Looks Like?

Miriam creeped into the conference so as not to disturb the rest of the meeting. Everyone was working hard on their business plan for 2021. “I’m having a bit of trouble,” she said. “I know all the steps for the plan, but I am just stuck.”

“And step one is what?” I asked. We were working with a structured planning model.

“Step one is to create the vision for my department. And that was easy. I think I got it all captured in a couple of sentences. It’s the rest of the plan that I am having difficulty with.”

“Interesting,” I replied, “that you can capture that much detail in two sentences.”

“Well, you are right,” Miriam confessed. “There isn’t a lot of detail, but I thought it would be better if it was short.”

“Miriam, here is the way the vision part of the plan works. The more detailed it is, the clearer the images are, the easier it is to write the rest of the plan. Instead of two sentences, write two pages. I want to know who your customers are and what services you provide. You probably have more than one customer segment, tell me how they are different and how your services to each are different? Tell me what position you hold in the marketplace, what your market share is? Who are your competitors? Tell me what your competitive advantage is, what are your core competencies? Who are your key personnel, how do you find them, how do you grow them? Tell me about your facilities, your plant? How do you control quality? How do you guarantee performance?”

Miriam left the room with a bit of thinking to do. A couple of days later, I read her vision statement. It contained all the detail we talked about and more. The plan that followed was clear and detailed, all driven by a carefully constructed word picture of the future.

The first step in the plan is vision.

With Gratitude

“What are you thankful for?” I asked.

The eyes from the other side of the table turned kind.

“I am thankful for this time of year, where things slow down. I stop. I stop being busy and become aware. If we don’t stop, we just keep going. Gratitude is about awareness. When I stop, my heart rate goes down. I am calm. In the quiet, I can take it in. I can watch and see things more clearly for what they are.”

“And, what do you see?” I prompted.

“I see connections, the relationships I have with other people. I play a role in other people’s lives and other people bring value to mine. It’s all about connections.”

“And, what are you thankful for?” I asked again.

“I am thankful that I am not wandering alone. I am thankful for those around me, that are connected to me. It sounds too obvious. That’s why it is so important to slow down and become aware. If we don’t stop, we just keep going.”

During this time of Thanksgiving, I am going to stop. To become aware.

See you next week. With my gratitude.

Which Mental State Do You Feed?

Mental states trigger different parts of the brain. Mental states trigger different hormones in the blood stream.

There are several versions of a story, this one ascribed to the Cherokee.

There was a grandfather speaking with his grandson, telling of two wolves. “There are two wolves living inside me,” the grandfather explained. “They fight with each other, one is evil, one is good.

“The evil wolf uses anger, sorrow, fear, judgement, greed, self-pity, guilt, lies, false pride and ego.

“The good wolf uses love, serenity, hope, empathy, exploration, generosity, gratitude, truth, compassion, creativity and purpose.”

“In this fight between the two wolves,” the grandson asked, “which will win?”

“The answer is simple,” the grandfather replied. “The wolf that wins, is the wolf you feed.”

Which wolf are you feeding? It’s a shift in mental state.

Negative Stream

Around the water cooler, have you noticed the tone of conversation?

  • “Did you hear about so and so, can you believe what happened?”
  • “You should have seen this guy who cut me off in traffic this morning.”
  • “Can you believe the gall of that person, why are they so opinionated?”

And, most of this is unconscious. It comes streaming out with little thought, guidance or direction. So easy to find fault, condemn or complain.

Ask a person about something good that happened yesterday, and they will stop, suddenly out of flow. Something positive requires conscious thought, does not come streaming out. We can usually find that positive moment from yesterday, but we have to interrupt our unconscious negative stream to do so.

The negative stream and positive thoughts sit in two different parts of the brain. Negative thoughts, from the primal brain arrive from a mental state of survival. Reflexive in speed, we don’t have to think. Positive thoughts require that we trigger the neo-cortex, fully visible on a fMRI brain scan. Responsive in speed, we have to think. Which part of the brain are you thinking with? Which mental state are you using to solve problems and make decisions?

Limitations of Performance-Reward

“There is nothing wrong with Performance-Reward (Work=Paycheck),” I said. “It is the contract that we make with employees. They show up each day and do their best in exchange for the agreed-upon compensation.”

Helen looked down, picturing something.

“I know you see yourself as a Motivator,” I continued. “And, here is why Motivation is so important for managers.

“I asked you before, if I was getting the Performance I wanted, as a Manager, why did I give two hoots whether it was Motivation or Manipulation (Performance-Reward). Here is why.

Performance-Reward requires you, the Manager, to be present, either physically present or present-by-threat, meaning, you will be back to check on things. So, Performance-Reward requires the proximity of the Manager.

“Second, the duration of the behavior is short, happens only to the specification required to get the reward. And if something happens to threaten that reward, diminish that reward, delay that reward, the performance stops.

“And that’s why Motivation is so important. As a Manager, we need sustained performance even when we are not around. We need more than Performance-Reward.”

Is Manipulation a Bad Thing?

“I just don’t like to think of myself as a Manipulator,” Helen said. “I want to believe that, as a Manager, I am perceived as a Motivator.”

“Great cover-up, isn’t it?” I smiled. “Listen, Helen, I am not suggesting that you do things, as a Manager, through deceit and trickery. What I am saying is, don’t fool yourself (11th commandment). Most of what we do is Performance-Reward or Underperformance-Reprimand, external inducements to get desired behavior.

“So, tell me, Helen, is manipulation necessarily a bad thing?”

Helen paused. “I just don’t like it. It doesn’t sound good.”

“Have you ever been working on a project, where you needed everyone to stay an extra half hour, to staple and bind all the reports, or to get a truck loaded with an emergency shipment to a customer; a situation where you needed just that extra bit of effort? So you tell everyone that you are ordering in a pizza, if they would just stay on for the half hour?”

“Well, sure, it happens, but what’s wrong with that?” Helen replied, then chuckled. “It’s a good thing my team likes pizza.”

“Exactly, just understand it is Performance-Reward. It is NOT Motivation.”

Reward or Reprimand?

Helen’s face dropped. Her smile extinguished.

My words, “Sounds like manipulation to me,” rang in her ears.

“But, but, what do you mean?” she gasped, not in desperation, but surprise.

“I mean, most of the things we do as Managers, fall in line with manipulation. We create expectations of performance, we get the performance, the team member gets a reward.

“Or more clearly, we create expectations, if we don’t get the performance, the team member gets reprimanded. Either way you look at it, most of what we do as Managers, is manipulation.”

I Certainly Don’t Manipulate

“Well, I certainly don’t manipulate my team members,” Helen insisted. “I like to think that I motivate them to get the work done.”

“Tell me, how do you do that?” I asked.

“Well, I think it begins on their first day at work. Our orientation does a really good job of explaining to them our philosophy as a company, our mission in the marketplace, where we standout against our competitors. Then, everyone, no matter what their role, goes through a pretty intensive training program, to make sure they have the skills they need to be successful. In my opinion, it’s pretty motivational.”

“How so?” I probe.

“Once they come out of training, they have to pass some competency tests, to make sure they actually have the skills they need. If they do that, they immediately get a pay rate increase, from training pay to Pay Band I. Our training pay is just above minimum wage. Pay Band I is calculated based on their actual role, their job description. It’s beginner’s pay, but it’s a step up, so immediately, they are rewarded for their efforts.”

“So, if they successfully complete their training program, they receive a reward in the form of a pay increase?”

“Yes,” Helen replied, smiling and nodding.

“Sounds like manipulation to me,” I observed.

Motivation or Manipulation?

“So, what’s the difference between motivation and manipulation?” I asked. “My kid is in the back seat of the car, and I ask him to put on his seat belt. I tell him that if he puts it on, we will go get ice cream as a reward.

“What is it? Motivation or manipulation?” The class sits on the question. Several want to leap out of their chairs with the answer, but they know it will make them a target for the discussion.

“My kid is in the back seat of the car, and I ask him to put on his seat belt. I tell him that if he doesn’t put it on, he won’t be able to play on the computer tonight.

“What is it? Motivation or manipulation?”