Category Archives: Time Span

Double Edge of Knowing

Habits are routine, grooved behaviors based on what-we-know. What-we-know is always based on the past.

Habits are a two-edged sword. Habits help us understand the world quickly. What-we-know creates patterns we can use to solve problems efficiently using a minimum of brain power.

Habits can prevent us from clearly seeing the present. What-we-know may not be accurate or lead us to mistake reality as a previous pattern (with a mistake).

Habits are part of who we are and resistant to change, because they are based on what-we-know. Habits are more powerful than reality, because reality is always new. Knowing prevents learning.

Four Levels of Knowing

What-we-know is a mental configuration. The way we configure what-we-know extends along our timespan of intention.

Most ideas exist independent of each other. If our timespan of intention is short, it is a perfectly good way of organizing what-we-know. We can rely on what we see, hear, touch, smell. Life is relatively simple. We can choose this idea OR that idea. This is the world of trial and error.

But, we wake up one morning and see ideas that are connected together. Our timespan of intention extends further into the future. What we see, hear, touch and smell is organized by ideas that are connected. This is the world of best practices, connected to our most common problems.

But, we wake up one morning and see ideas that are caused by other ideas. There is not only a connected relationship, but a cause and effect relationship. Our timespan of intention extends even further. Best practices help to solve problems we have seen, but are useless to problems we have never solved. What-we-know comes from root-cause analysis, the basis for creating a single serial system, a series of ideas sitting in a sequence of cause and effect relationships (critical path).

But, we wake up one morning and what-we-know includes more than one system. We see multiple systems sitting side by side. Each internal system has its own constraints, but some of those constraints now sit outside the system. Each system has an output which becomes the input for its neighboring system. Defective output from one system wreaks havoc on its neighboring system. And some systems outstrip the capacity of neighboring systems, crippling overall throughput of the entire enterprise. If our timespan of intention extends this far, our problems exist in the hand-off between systems and in the output capacity of one system to the next. The organization of what-we-know comes from systems analysis.

We can only know (what-we-know) what we are capable of knowing.

Timespan of Intention

Jordan was quiet. “So, it’s just a matter of what you know and what you don’t know?” he asked.

I lifted my head, “It’s what you know, what you don’t know and what you need-to-know. What you know is based on what timeframe?”

“Only the past,” Jordan replied.

“And what you need-to-know is based on what timeframe?”

“It’s too late for the past, it must be now.”

“You are correct. What do you need-to-know to help you understand the present? How does that understanding help you in the future? And, not the future of what will inevitably be, but, the future of your intentions? There are two timelines of the future, one is based on elapsed time, the other based on your intentions.”

What You Need to Know

“Unbelievable,” Jordan shook his head. “We thought we had it nailed. We knew what the problem was, had a great solution. We were so confident this project was ours for the taking.”

“And?” I asked.

“What we didn’t know was our competitor had a relationship with their corporate attorney, who whispered in the ear of the CFO, who controlled the budget for the project.”

“So, what did you learn?”

“Sometimes, what we know about the problem and the solution to the problem isn’t what we need to know about how the decision will be made.”

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Hiring Talent – 2020 was released on Mon, Jan 13, 2020. Limited to 20, participants must be part of the hiring process, as either hiring manager, part of the hiring team, human resources or manager-once-removed. Program details are here – Hiring Talent – 2020. If you would like to register please complete the form on the Hiring Talent link. The first 20 respondents will receive a discount code for a $99 credit toward the program.

Which Hat Do You Wear?

Hiring Talent – 2020 will release today, Mon, Jan 13, 2020. Limited to 20, participants must be part of the hiring process, as either hiring manager, part of the hiring team, human resources or manager-once-removed. Program details are here – Hiring Talent – 2020. If you would like to pre-register please complete the form on the Hiring Talent link. The first 20 respondents will receive a discount code for a $99 credit toward the program.
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I am a bit overwhelmed with the quality of responses to the dilemma posted by Exhausted this past Friday. There are some very thoughtful suggestions at both ends of the spectrum.

Recap:
Exhausted is faced with a decision about a team member who is resistant to his management of her work behavior.

My response:
As I listened to your description of events, I only heard about your efforts and your failure to manage this person to your way of thinking and behavior.

People don’t want to be managed. You can manage a process, you can manage a machine, but you cannot manage a person. Which is kind of weird, because we think that is what managers are supposed to do.

You are wearing the hat of the critical parent, she is wearing the hat of the petulant child. Your goal is to move the conversation to adult-adult.

You see, the only way to manage people as a critical parent is with pressure tactics, control systems, threats of punishment, verbal and written warnings. You have tried all of these and you are left with a poor attitude and a resistant direct report (petulant child).

If you take off your critical parent hat, what are the new tools you have to build trust and gain commitment. People will sign-on to a world that they help to construct.

  • Alignment. Ask questions about personal goals and organizational goals to find the common ground. These are discussions about purpose.
  • Challenge. Ask questions about the work, related to decision making and problem solving. Uncover areas for skill development, difficulty and competence.
  • Managerial relationship. The reason people stay with or leave companies is, most often, dependent on the relationship with their manager.

Here is the bad news. For the past four months, you have managed this person into a state of resistance. You may have ruined her. And you may not have the patience or the time to repair the damage. And the damage may not be repairable.

By all appearances, this person may be headed for an inevitable separation. And separations happen. You will then get a chance with a new person. You will get a second chance. Take a look at your hat, make sure you are wearing the right one. Whenever I hear about this kind of situation, all crumbs lead back to the manager. That would be you.

Merry Christmas

Originally published December 23, 2005.

As Matthew looked across the manufacturing floor, the machines stood silent, the shipping dock was clear. Outside, the service vans were neatly parked in a row. Though he was the solitary figure, Matthew shouted across the empty space.

“Merry Christmas to all, and to all, a good night.”

He reached for the switch and the lights went dark. He slid out the door and locked it behind.

We hope you all have a wonderful holiday. Management Skills Blog will return on January 6, 2020. We will be checking email over the holidays, so if you need us, you know how to get us.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

Four Power Questions Before the Interview

It’s all about the work. Most managers make hiring mistakes because they didn’t know what they were looking for in the first place.

  • How to know what you are looking for?
  • How to transform that vague picture into specific deliverables?
  • How to communicate that picture and deliverables to the hiring team, to make sure you are right?

I will know it when I see it, sets up the hiring manager for failure. Success is based on luck.

Work is a funny notion. Many managers focus on getting in touch with candidates, all warm and fuzzy. Not my purpose. Instead, get in touch with reality. The purpose of hiring is to get some work done.

Work is making decisions and solving problems. Few hiring managers think about the problems that have to be solved and the decisions that have to be made in a team member’s role. That is where it starts. The hiring manager is looking for someone to make specific decisions and solve specific problems. Until we figure that out, we will never hire the right person.

Here are the power questions to answer before you get into the interview room –

  • In this key area, what decisions have to be made?
  • What is the time frame for those decisions?
  • In this key area, what problems have to be solved?
  • What is the time frame for those solutions?

Trust is a Choice

Based on truth, trust is a choice. Trust does not happen. Trust is not a feeling, it is a decision.

Trust cannot exist in a circumstance of deception or ambiguity. The choice of trust is always tested by the consequences of reality.

Trust can be broken. Attempts can be made to repair a broken trust, but its repair can only be chosen.

I can engage to earn your trust, but only you can choose to trust me.
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Taking a break for the US Thanksgiving holiday. See you back here Monday, Dec 2, 2019. -Tom

Pay You Tuesday for a Hamburger Today

From the Ask Tom mailbag –

Question:
In your last post, Easy Now, Hard Later, you talked about the addiction curve, the procrastination curve and the busy curve. More, in depth, please.

Response:
The addiction curve, easy now, hard later works in several scenarios. It’s a simple principle to understand addiction recovery, but applicable to any situation where you need to kick the habit, replace a habit, or kick-start a new habit. The first step is hard, but what is hard now, is easy (easier) later.

The procrastination curve is identical. It’s easy now, to put off something difficult. Wimpy used to say he would gladly pay you Tuesday for a hamburger today. Easy now is the first step to procrastination.

But the busy curve is harder to get our arms around. Easy to spend our time responding to email (looking busy), checking off random items on the to-do list (thinking we are busy), when we are stalling on the most important projects that are hard now. Projects that require thinking, sharpening a skill, acquiring rare materials, enlisting the aid of others. A project is any task with more than one step. Get started. Next Tuesday, the hamburger will be gone, but the bill comes due.

Habits Determine Success

In a previous post, A Level of Competence, I ended with an unspoken question. What habits do you have that support your success? Here are the responses, manicured and edited. If you want to see the original responses with attribution (who posted it), follow this link.

  • Read a book a month, a few minutes first thing in the morning, or over lunch.
  • Learn from experts that share their wisdom. Seek them out, pay attention.
  • Look down the road and ask, “Where do we see ourselves as a company in 10 years? 3 years? 1 year?”
  • Break the year down into quarters (quarterly leadership meetings). Break the quarter into weeks (weekly leadership meetings).
  • Given a task, don’t think what or how, think “who?” Delegation.
  • This year I picked a Word of the Year – PROACTIVE. Then I made a word cloud of all the words that came to mind in association with this word (e.g. take charge, adaptive, considerate, effective, willing, doing) and I posted this word cloud by my desk at work and mirror at home. I also had a bracelet made with the word on it, plus dog tags to pin on my purse or keys. I incorporated it into password phrases that I have to type daily. It has been a huge help to remind me to stop procrastinating and just do it – everything from Gantt charts to putting away laundry! I’m actually amazed at how motivating it turned out to be.
  • I use my calendar. As soon as I wake up, I take a quick peek as I prepare for the day/week ahead. My thoughts follow me through my morning routine and my drive to work. This helps me to prioritize my daily plan right down to how I dress. This is also a great opportunity to inspire others as I try to lead by example. I’m a firm believer in the old adage.. “An ounce of planning is worth a pound of cure”!
  • My day starts with a cup of coffee (or more). While drinking (my coffee), I write in my journal by asking this question – “What will I do today to use my gifts to make a positive difference in someone’s life?” At the end of the day I journal by answering this question. “What is the actual positive difference I made today in someone else’s life?” On occasion, I shake things up by asking and answering a couple of additional questions: “What is the one question if asked and answered that would make it impossible for me to remain as I am?” or “What would a person who truly loved themselves and others be doing right now?” or “What would I be doing today if I truly believed that my life mattered and that I could have anything that I want?”
  • I remain curious and I don’t quit.
  • I awake at 4:45am every morning. 4 out of 5 week days I go to the Orange Theory fitness at 6am where the thought train stops and I purely focus on what I’m doing and the energy of the people I work out with. It’s the 1 hour a day that my brain can take a break! I walk out spent, and focus on how I feel post workout in the car, stop and get my coffee on the way to work. While I’m still cooling down I check my calendar for the day, and then hit the shower; where my brain shifts gears. Yep, its convenient to have a shower at work. This is when I feel the uptick in energy and it feeds the energy throughout the rest of the day. Shower and a breakfast; I spend that time focusing on what I want to accomplish through the day. Most of the time that’s in coaching the team and development. I create that mental list that I can check off as I go through the day. For me, starting every morning I can with a clear mind and an intense workout feeds that energy and helps set up the day.