Published January 31, 2014 by

His Advice, My Experience, Think About It

I recently watched an interview featuring Snoop Dog.  He was asked about the many people that have abandoned him given his evolution into new kinds of music, coaching kids, and somewhat less partying.

His response was something like “as you get older, if you don’t lose friends along the way, then you are not growing up.”  I think his words are wise.

I used to pride myself on never growing up.  I like being open to new things, resilient, and current with popular culture.  Over the last 18 months, I fear that I may be growing up and developing a level of self confidence that I never thought I would achieve.

I am also getting older and as I evolve into new endeavors, I am losing many “friends.”
I am good with this because you only have so much time and you should focus your time with your true supporters.

Remember that your colleagues are your colleagues.  Your friends may be a few of your colleagues but probably not many.  The cold reality is that once your usefulness to these “friends” gets limited or eliminated,  these colleagues (friends) quickly realign their allegiances to others.  This is not good or bad, it is life.   The good news is that as you evolve into other ventures, you develop new friends.  This process keeps you young and may even further prevent you from growing up!

Cherish, focus, and support the true friends.

Son of a Postman


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Published January 30, 2014 by

I recently came across a blog post of mine about different “types” of minds in “Buddhist personality typology.” Of course, I was intrigued, because I have my own set of types to describe different people! The blog “Which Type Are You?” explains three ways that people approach new and different situations. The types are Greedy, Aversive and Deluded.

 
Greedy and Aversive are “two sides of the same coin,” according to the blog. The Greedy type tends to enter a new situation and find all that is good about it. This type tries to find how to get the most out of this new circumstance, and that is what makes it “greedy.” To me, this seems like the most positive-sounding of these types.
 
The Aversive type, on the other hand, enters a new situation and tries to find everything that is wrong with it. This type takes a critical look at things, and perhaps (in the best cases, at least) will takes steps to fix what they perceive as lacking. Fixing things is good (and I myself have been called “The Fixer”), but just noticing what is wrong does not necessarily entail taking that crucial step.  I think I have an aversive mind
 
The final of these three type is Deluded. These are the ones who enter a new situation and do not know what to do with it. Perhaps this type aligns somewhat with one of my own types, the Underperformer. They might enter a new situation and not know or realize what is expected of them. My advice for Underperformers is to give them encouragement to tackle their tasks.
 
Given their names and descriptions, I don’t know if anyone would really want to be any of these three types, as they all seem to have negative qualities to them. However the blog does say, “The freedom comes from recognizing the hold of one personality over the self, and not letting it take over.” Recognition does seem to be the key to overcoming the pitfalls of each type.

Which of these types do you think you are?  It is safe to identify your mind type because they are “ripen” into positives!

Son of a Postman


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Published January 27, 2014 by

Superiority, Self Control, My Insecurities

 

 

The New York Times published an interesting article
by Amy Chua and Jed Rubenfeld about the disproportionate success of certain ethnic, religious and national-origin groups in the United States, “What Drives Success.” .

 

Instead of making the argument that there are inherent advantages for say, Chinese- or Indian-Americans, the authors point to three personality traits that seem to drive success.

 

The authors put these three traits into somewhat pejorative terms: a superiority complex, impulse control, and a deep sense of inferiority. Their argument is that people who have any or all of these traits, “systematically sacrifice present gratification in pursuit of future attainment.” This is good. I believe they were writing to me! They explain many of the things I cited in my book that were responsible for my success.

 

Important to note that having these traits might stem from the cultural conditions of being from an immigrant family, but they could also apply to anyone regardless of religion or ethnicity. I once got beat up for making ethnic generalizations about some of the people I managed. This study validates most of my conclusions in spite of my critics.

The authors call the first trait  a “superiority complex,” but later refer it more innocuously as “having a chip on your shoulder.” It’s not a feeling of arrogant superiority, but rather the desire to live up to high expectations for oneself. I wouldn’t suggest that having a “superiority complex,” as normally understood, would be a factor in success and in fact can be extremely detrimental when working with others. However, I would agree with the authors that it helps to have high expectations for oneself, as that can drive you to be the best you possibly can.

 

Impulse control is the most straightforward of the “success” traits. I have often made the point of avoiding distractions like gum-chewing and the overuse of electronic gadgets. I think it is important to be mindful of the here and now, especially when working with others. Staying on task will make that work go quicker, and it will probably be done better. It is important to think longer term. So many young people in my previous industry just didn’t get this.

The authors call the third trait a “deep sense of inferiority,” Feeling “deeply” inferior has never felt like a very healthy way to live, but it has been my life! Conversely, I have always believed that my insecurities have given me my edge. It gave me the determination to show others that I was not as inferior as some may have indicated or I thought all on my own.

 

AHH! This is deep and warrants a visit to my therapist. Maybe it’s best not to feel “inferior,” but rather to be humble and honest. The article makes its point about material success (good grades, income), but says nothing about happiness or satisfaction. As you know, I believe success and happiness don’t have to be mutually exclusive.

 

This is an important study and an interesting article.  I recommend reading it!

 

Son of a Postman


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Published January 24, 2014 by

Sign Of Strength, Maturity, Just Say It!

Recently, I wrote about “doing whatever it takes,” and in that post I made the case that it is best to be forthright when you don’t know something. I thought I would be a good idea to expand on that idea a little bit.

 

Recently, a former colleague was telling me about one of the first times he had worked with me. I had asked him a question, which he did not know that answer to, and instead of admitting that, he tried to cover up with a convoluted response. He told me that he immediately knew what was happening, as my body language betrayed the fact that I was not buying anything that he was saying. As he saw my eyebrows dancing up and down my face, he realized that he would have to come clean.

 

As embarrassing as it might be to admit that you don’t know something, it is usually far more detrimental to try to cover that fact up. At best progress will be delayed when attempting something out of your depth, at worst, the work will have to be repeated the correct way. Some people are skilled liars or spinners, but when push comes to shove, the lie will be exposed. Simply saying “I don’t know,” avoids all these potential delays and roadblocks, and usually is a starting point for learning something new, so that you don’t have to say “I don’t know” again.

 

This advice is really good for younger or more junior people, who may see admitting to not knowing something as a sign of weakness. The fact of the matter is, however, that it takes confidence and courage to say admit that you don’t know something. And, getting back to the principle of “do whatever it takes,” the best formulation is to say, “I don’t know, but let me find out.”

Son of a Postman


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Published January 22, 2014 by

Back And Forth, Often And Balanced, What My Friend Says!

Last week, I was going on about the importance of feedback.  I also contrasted feedback with applause.  There is a whole chapter in my book on feedback called “Nurture Them.”  Lat week I stumbled on a clever expression that I had not heard before.  It was said by a friend who is just all around clever so I thought it important to share. 

“Instead of feedback, how about “feedforward?”  So – instead of asking people to
comment on something you’ve done – ask them for ideas about what you could do better at that particular area. The whole point is to pay attention to what you can change in the future, not agonize over what you did in the past. So, who can you ask for some “feedforward?”

This quote is from my friend Leigh Ashton who I met last fall at a Mindfulness Immersion in the UK.  Leigh is an author, speaker, trainer and coach…and founder of The Sales Consultancy. She helps sales professionals and business owners get more sales. I figure that who else but a motivator and trainer of Sales People would be good at coming up with new catchy words and phrases.  Leigh had also written a book on the topic titles “iSell, Unlocking Your Winning Sales Mindset.”  See, “iSell” is a clever catchy title!   (I have been wondering how I might incorporate selling skills into my “Fluffer” chapter.)

Now did I just give Leigh feedback or feedforward?  I am actually at a week long meditation retreat so my mind is all mixed up!

Son of a Postman


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Published January 21, 2014 by

Early Advice, Good Advice, Will Set You Apart


It was 1982. I had just started my career soon after graduating college, and I was working late. This was the time before computers’ ubiquity and even before cubicles had become the standard, so I was at a roll-top desk, manually working on a spreadsheet for a presentation the next day. While I was doing this, the top person in the company, who was also working late, came up to me, smoking a cigarette, and asked if I knew where to find a certain piece of information. To be honest, I had no idea, but I offered to help find it. Basically, my attitude of “whatever it takes” kicked in.

The principle of “do whatever it takes” is about strengthening and developing yourself. You do not need to start with the skills or knowledge that may be required, but you do need the confidence to say “I don’t know,” and also “I will try” (or in my case “I will look”). I think it is very important to say admit that you don’t know something, when that is the case. Trying to fake it only makes things worse. Doing whatever it takes is a way to overcome it. Hopefully, in the process of taking on the new assignment, you will learn something and then be able to take on even more in the future.

On that night that I was working late, I did end up locating the information the leader was looking for, and I whipped up a few summary statistics for him. Later on, he came back, still smoking, to thank me, and he gave me this advice, “Son, in this business and in most life, you really don’t need to know much. You just need to know where to find things.” I took his advice to heart. I would say that you just need to remember to do whatever it takes, and the rest will come naturally.

One thing I did think of today is that no one has referred to me a “son” in quite some time. But I will always be the…

Son of a Postman


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Published January 16, 2014 by

Slowing Down Me, Mindful Me, You Do It Too


 

I have never liked to waste time. I am very hyper and have been since childhood. I typically find myself rushing to get too many things accomplished or rushing to get to too many places. I believe my uber sense of urgency, along with my insecurities, have been instrumental in the success that I have enjoyed thus far, but there have been negatives as well.

 

I have often found it challenging to sleep, relax, and control my reactions to things. This is why I now practice yoga and mindfulness. I just try to breathe more often! I must confess that last winter I got two speeding tickets coupled with the associated fines and points. This was a wake up call that I really did need to slow down. Where am I rushing to anyway?

 

As I have moved on to new work and new ways of looking at the world, I’ve taken stock of all this rushing about and the reasons for my fear of wasting time. Who, other than me, is now judging my life or my productivity anyway? I am the only judge now! I keep reminding myself that it is much healthier and even more productive to slow down and give things the time and attention they deserve.

 

Wasting time doesn’t have to be time wasted at all.

I have seen this sentiment expressed in different places, and there seems to be scientific evidence that backs up the notion that regularly “wasting” a few minutes throughout the day can make you more resilient, productive, and happy.

Lucy Kellaway (love her!), writing for the Financial Times, looked at the research done by Jane McGonigal, a designer of computer games, perhaps a big time-waster for some of you? According to McGonigal, several types of short breaks aren’t wasted time at all, “To reach this odd conclusion, she has immersed herself in research from neuroscientists, doctors and psychologists, and found that time-wasting can be good when it boosts us in one of four ways – physically, mentally, emotionally or socially.”  Kellaway even talks about the benefits of puppies so it is a must read!  ( ON WORK: Time-wasting tips a waste of time) 

Getting up and walking around, stimulating the brain with a short game or puzzle, chatting with a colleague, even just shaking someone’s hand all can recharge you and help you tackle whatever you have to do when you get back to work. This is not just wishful thinking, according to Kellaway’s article there is real science to back this up:

“When it comes to time-wasting that boosts us socially, the best way, [McGonigal says], is to shake hands with someone for a full six seconds, which is meant to lift our oxytocin levels.”

This all reminds me of something I read somewhere about what a Zen master said, “As one Zen Master put it, “Don’t just sit there; do something” we should say the opposite, “Don’t just do something; sit there.”

When done right (and in moderation), “wasting time” can become a misnomer. Take a few minutes today and “waste” time.  See if it helps you out!

Son of a Postman


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Published January 16, 2014 by

How I Am I Doing, Saccharin Applause, Never Too Late

 

In my last post, I spoke about the joy of getting positive feedback. In my book I write lots about giving good feedback. Today I would like to make a distinction between feedback and applause. I actually learned this distinction from the author Seth Godin who wrote a brief post on the topic called “The feedback you’ve been waiting for.”

Applause could also be called praise. It’s saying, “good job, keep it up.” It’s a way to encourage and reinforce good work, and also give that good work the attention it deserves. Unlike feedback, applause is less tailored to a specific person or project, but it still is important to let people know that they are doing the right thing and doing it well. Careful with the use of applause! I have known leaders who get carried away with so much saccharin applause that it loses its effectiveness.

Feedback, whether positive or negative, should be constructive. Those receiving it should be able to use it to make something better. In my book I say, “I have figured out that there are several elements that make feedback really helpful. It needs to be immediate and frequent, direct and honest and well-balanced.” Overall, feedback is a way to guide people, and the more you give, the easier it becomes to deliver.

Both applause and feedback are important tools for getting the best out of people. Nobody likes to feel clueless as to whether or not they are doing well, and frequent, direct feedback keeps everyone feeling on the right path (or at least knowing what the right path is). And of course good feedback comes from “working the fields” (another recent blog), and really knowing your team and how to talk to each individual personally.

One of the things I found wanting during my corporate career is someone to tell me that I was doing a good job.  I don’t think you are ever too senior, too experienced, or two full of yourself to need an occasional “good job.”  

I can not stress enough how important it is to give regular feedback to everyone.

Son of a Postman

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Published January 13, 2014 by

Getting Feedback, Take It All, Value All Of It

Ever wonder why I wrote a book?  Lately, book sales have slowed so I have be reminding myself of the reasons.   “Selling” honestly wasn’t a big priority.   This is probably because I am really not so into self promotion.  I am planning a “book tour” but its one of those things that is not natural for me. I will get to it. 

What I do get from this book are lots of notes from people who have read it.  These notes typically cite the helpful things readers are learning.   This is really the main reason I wrote this book and why I am working on two others.  I enjoy sharing the many valuable things I have learned from being mindful of others.

Speaking of feedback, this morning I received a note from a friend that very much reminded me why I wrote this book.  I do like to give feedback but I also love getting it.

“Last night, we had a moment in our house during the kids’ dinner time.  I had your book open on the counter and they asked me about it because they saw “Kevin” on the cover.  (The father of these kids is also named Kevin.)

I explained that the author was actually someone I used to work for and they were completely floored by the idea that I personally knew the author of a real book.  I then looked down and realized Emilia (7) was using a bowl that you had given us when Jack was born (teddy bears from Tiffany).  Jack (4) was using the matching plate!  I shared that with them and they screamed in delight.  It put a big smile on my face – hope the same happens for you.”

YES!  It did put a big smile on my face and it gave me goose bumps.  It reminding me why I wrote this book and gave me a feeling of gratitude.  I know so many wonderful people.   I always try to let the little things make me happy.

Remember that feedback is important.  I go on and on about it in my book…in case you might want to read it!

Son of a Postman


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Published January 10, 2014 by
Know Those You Lead, Do It Yourself, Build Stronger Team

Most of my vacations and holidays now involve some sort of yoga and meditation activity. A yoga retreat is typically a week at a pleasant resort where the participants spend most days learning about their practice with a yoga teacher who has also traveled to the resort specifically to conduct the workshop. 

I used to go on cycling vacations and then about eight years ago I turned in this new direction. Eight years ago, I suffered from severe chronic pain in my groin and lower back. To remedy this constant pain, I consulted every possible specialist in New York City. I took painkillers, had physical therapy, endured cortisone shots in my
spine and even considered surgery. Each specialist had a
different assessment of my problem and, of course, each was completely confident in his or her own solution.

Happily, I listened to none of them. Instead, I started practicing yoga. I began by going to yoga classes in my rural, weekend community. The yoga teacher there paid
close attention and saw my struggles with the pain. She suggested that I consider some private lessons to get past the most difficult hurdles. She said, “I can fix you.” And she did. I now practice yoga almost every day.

Just as my yoga teacher figured out my problem by working closely with me, I have found that paying close attention to the people I manage is essential. Leading a
group from the ground up really knowing the particulars of whatever it is each person does is the best way to successfully guide and retain talented people. This practice of “working in the fields” it is at the core of my management philosophy.


So many people in management positions just don’t get this, yet they “lead” packs of people in big organizations! There are some people you lead who would prefer that
you went back into your office but that is important information too. It is information you won’t get if you don’t get close to your people and the details of their work.

Son of a Postman

 


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