Why It’s Time to Ditch Your Performance Reviews

April 10 , 2019 •  5 minute read • by Saeed


“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” 

-Ken Blanchard

Most employees look forward to their performance review the way they look forward to a funeral. They are equally dreaded by the managers who deliver them.

Despite the goal, you give employees constructive feedback about their work to encourage individual performance, most are a dreary exercise in further disillusionment, disconnection and demoralization.

That’s because in many organizations today, reviews aren’t really designed to help employees grow; they’re designed to manage promotions and raises or to go through the motions of performance management and accountability.

Instead, the performance management system goal should be to provide on-going coaching and feedback to employees with the aim of developing and improving employee performance and team effectiveness.

This requires that employees receive on-going constructive feedback about their job performance in relation to their goals, their approach to innovation and the opportunities before them to create value.

Compare this to top flight athletes. They don’t receive reviews a couple of times of year.  If they did, they’d fail.  Rather, they receive on-going coaching.  This type of feedback creates an immediate awareness of what they’re doing right and what they need to do to overcome barriers and do even better.

With this in mind, perhaps it’s time to ditch this archaic exercise.

Master the Coaching Conversation

There are progressive companies out there that have moved away from traditional performance reviews, in favor of creating cultures of coaching, feedback, development, and high performance.

Such organizations have managed to re-shape their cultures to ones based on coaching; where everyone in a leadership role is trained on how to coach.  In this way, leaders give their employees constant performance feedback, which in turn, engages employees and creates a desire to continuously improve.

Rather than once or twice yearly, coaching happens throughout the year; possibly every day.  And because it is on-going, it eliminates the need for formal annual appraisals and reviews.

You can begin by incorporating the constructive aspects of reviews in your existing one-on-one meetings as an opportunity for feedback and coaching.  You can dedicate time during these sessions to a discussion on how the person can enhance their own performance and play to their strengths.  In so doing, you remove the unconstructive focus on ratings.

I’ve often heard that managers resist the concept of on-going coaching because they believe it is too time-consuming. Actually, it is quite the opposite.

Managing poor performance is extremely time consuming.

In the traditional system, you have to provide written reviews, spend time with employees to discuss these reviews, monitor progress made based on these reviews and provide corrective feedback as required.

In contrast, on-going coaching might take 5 minutes of a manager’s time every week. Yet it is a powerful force in demonstrating the concern the Manager has for her employee’s development. With such enhanced and regular communication and interaction, corrective measures are more easily and seamlessly applied and results are visible fairly quickly.

You can structure your conversations to first receive an update on the one to three action items agreed to at the last meeting. Second, ask for a success story or a moment of pride. Third, brainstorm either a solution to a problem or an opportunity to pursue. And fourth, agree on one to three action items that the employee will focus on in the coming week.

A Final Word

Coaching conversations are not performance reviews; they are discussions. So talk less and let your employee talk more. Sit back, listen, ask questions for clarity. When it’s your turn to speak, give positive and constructive feedback. Tell your employee what she did well and where you see opportunities for growth. Specific examples are always helpful.

If your employee is doing most of the talking – about her wins and challenges, how she’s learning and growing – then you’ve mastered the art of the coaching conversation.

 

Good Luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate your readership. If you found this article valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.

I also invite you to FOLLOW ME on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

©2019 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A., CPCC

Motivation, Commitment, and Intention: The Secret Sauce to Success

February 27, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“Our intention creates our reality.” ~ Wayne Dyer

It’s a general management belief that employers are able to get the best out of people if they follow what motivates them. While it’s true that to lead people effectively, you must first understand them, research suggests that the link between motivation and performance is not a linear causal chain.

What is Motivation?

Motivation is broadly defined as the willingness to exert energy and effort toward goals. The root word, ‘motive,’ is defined as something that causes a person to act. There are two basic types of motivation:

1.      Intrinsic Motivation: Intrinsic motivation is done for reasons that are internal to one ’s self. It is for self satisfaction and not for the fear of a consequence. The reward is within the action itself and does not need external factors to guide behavior.

2.      Extrinsic Motivation: Extrinsic motivation comes from external factors where the actions are done because of what has been said. This means that if we are told to do something, we do it because of extrinsic motivation.

It is generally believed that when a person’s behavior is aligned with a sense of personal causation and self-interest, i.e., intrinsic motivation, it is self-sustaining. Extrinsic motivation is less powerful because when the external reward is taken away, so is the motivation. Therefore, intrinsic motivation is the more desirable and self-sustaining of the two.

Furthermore, new brain research suggests that dopamine – a neurotransmitter that carries chemical messages from your brain to the rest of your body – plays an important role in motivation. Long thought to be the happy neurotransmitter, dopamine is actually the reward and punishment transmitter. This means that its real job is to encourage us to act, either to achieve something good or to avoid something bad. These neuroscience discoveries point to the idea that the brain can be retrained to increase a person’s motivation for rewards. That means there is hope for your teenage slacker after all.

But wait. This is where things actually start to get complicated.

The Role of Commitment

Have you ever wondered why you can’t stick to your new year’s resolution? Research has shown that the better we feel about our new year’s resolutions and our ability to stick with them, the less likely we actually will. Or have you ever wondered why after motivating yourself to exercise and making progress on your goal, you still eat that yummy piece of cake? It’s your brain’s reward system kicking in and wanting to be indulged. Research has discovered that we are all too eager to use progress as an excuse to slack off and indulge. Dope-a-mine.

It turns out that commitment, rather than progress, is the deeper source of motivation. Commitment to the goal is even more important than progress made towards it because it changes how you feel about the reward of self-indulgence. So that reminding yourself why you set the goal in the first place, is a more motivating and self sustaining force for positive change. Ultimately it seems, we are more disciplined about our goals when our deeper commitment is activated than when we are just focused on progress.

Implementation Intentions

So you have motivation and you have commitment. Then why is it you still can’t implement?

It turns out intentionality is the key missing ingredient for most. When researchers in the UK gathered together a group of volunteers with the goal of regular exercise, the group that was asked to plan and write down their “implementation intentions” – where, when, what, they were going to do for exercise, and how frequently, and for how long – achieved far greater success. Amazingly, 91 percent of this group achieved their goal, as compared to just 29 percent of the control group (commitment) and 39 percent of the group who learned extensively about the benefits of exercise (motivation) but did not have an implementation intention. Over 100 separate studies in a wide range of experimental situations have come to the same conclusion: people who explicitly state when and where their new behaviors are going to happen are much more likely to stick to their goals. For whatever reason, our brains need that extra nudge.

A Final Word…

Success, motivation and progress are not so straight forward. But deciding in advance when and where you will take specific actions to reach your goal can double or triple your chances for success. By simply writing down a plan that outlines exactly when and where you intend to do your thing – whether it’s a new exercise routine or finally writing that first novel, you are much more likely to actually follow through. As the research indicates, what pulls that desire out of you and turns it into real–world action isn’t your level of motivation, but rather your intention for implementation.

In the end, both the journey and destination need to be intentional.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

If You Want to Keep Your Employees, Kill Your Job Descriptions

February 23, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“I got to get on the good foot” ~ James Brown

James Brown released the track ‘Get on the Good Foot’ in 1972 as a two-part single on an album of the same name released in the same year. It was his first gold record. To me, this track is all about playing to your strengths – something we rarely do with our employees.

That process starts with job descriptions, which are almost always some ancient HR relic created for compensation.

Why Job Descriptions Suck

The obligatory job description that identifies an employee’s tasks and responsibilities is regarded as the critical building block of HR. But most are outdated, poorly structured, generic, bloated, overly complex word salads that hardly ever actually describe jobs. It is ironic that we even call them “job descriptions.” We should just call them what they really are: ‘let’s-hope-we-get-someone-really-good-wish lists.’

Perfect employees don’t exist. You are looking for a unicorn. That’s why no job description is going to be perfect, either. And that’s why you always end up slapping a horn on a horse.

Job descriptions do everything but deliver on their eponymous promise. So why not kill them? Or at least choke them a little.

What Research Says

This idea is not too farfetched when considering some recent studies. Working off the premise that many hiring practices today are poorly suited to the rapid changes confronting many businesses, UCL School of Management Assistant Professor Vaughn Tan examined whether or not people performed better when they were able to adapt their job descriptions to focus on their strengths and drop those components they felt were not beneficial. The result was a more satisfied and successful workforce.

Or take as evidence a recent study by Wharton’s Adam Grant and members of Facebook’s HR team. They looked at workers who were retained over time and those who quit their jobs despite the perks of working at the innovative social networking company. The study revealed that when managers tailored a job to a given employee’s passions, talents and priorities, rather than try to slot them into a preconceived role, they ended up with more satisfied and engaged workers who were retained longer.

The Minimalist Approach

If you only have a partial idea of who you need to hire and what those people need to do anyway, why not try a paradigm shift? Instead of packing a bowling ball into a marble bag, try building out only the skeleton of a job description and allowing candidates to co-design the fuller description with you in a way that speaks to their strengths and to your needs. Research shows that this approach works well for rapidly changing industries such as technology start-ups, advertising, and film production companies where predicting the future is more difficult. It is actually really easy to make your job descriptions speak to the candidate, describe their key objectives, and be open to possible alternative backgrounds.

A Final Word

If you want to keep your people — especially your stars — it’s time to pay more attention to how you design their work. Most companies design job descriptions and then slot people into them. But as they continue to compete for talented people, they will begin to create jobs around them. Keeping job descriptions minimal, instead of the current practice of covering all the bases, creates more possibilities and more opportunities. Unicorns don’t have to be real for people to believe in them. The same goes with the “perfect candidate.”So why not try something new and allow people to dance on their good foot.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The Devil is In the Implementation: 5 Reasons Why You Fail to Execute on Your Ideas

February 15, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“Strategy without tactics is the slowest route to victory, tactics without strategy is the noise before defeat.” —Sun Tsu, Ancient Chinese Military strategist

I know. You don’t have to tell me. You’re inspired. You just got a great idea for a new business or product. Or maybe you just had a great meeting or strategic planning session and you can’t wait to implement the new ideas and strategies that emerged. Or maybe you just made your resolution for the New Year.

Whatever the case, there is a spike in your enthusiasm and excitement in the beginning. You are excited to get to the action, to see the results, to impact change, and to make improvements. But before long, you start to lose momentum to execute on your Big Audacious Hairy Goals. You fail to follow through. Your great ideas begin to melt and run down your arm like a scoop of ice cream in the middle of July.

In all the examples above the problem is not the idea, the plan, the goal or the strategy. The problem is the people and their behaviors that either drive or impede progress on the idea. The problem is how you execute.

Steve Wozniack likes to tell the story of how Steve Jobs only learned to execute after he was fired from Apple and started NeXT. Jobs was just 30 years old, wildly successful, fabulously wealthy and a global celebrity when he was suddenly fired. But that firing turned out to be a blessing in disguise. It was when he came back to Apple that most of the iconic products we know and use today were launched because in his time away, he had learned how to execute.

If you perceive yourself or are perceived as having an “execution problem,” by others, you will benefit from knowing the fundamental reasons why.

Reason #1: You Don’t Have the Right Mindset

In strategy sessions, people often ask questions like: “What would success look like?” and “What action will you take to implement the strategy?” These questions and their answers do not lead to change. That is because, as we have established above, we have a people problem and people are about behavior. And obviously, if you are asking the wrong questions, you will get the wrong answers. Because we are a culture obsessed with positivism, we look to assets and strengths. Fair enough. But what about weaknesses? The right question to ask instead is: “What current behavior do I see in myself, my team, my manager, or my organization that will make success less likely?”

This question is about facing reality, which is a pre-requisite for strategy execution. By articulating the answer to this question, you are identifying the potential barriers to progress, which you must first remove before you can see change. You are also recognizing that behaviors drive results and that mindset drives behavior. To impact change, you have to shift the mindset that leads to behaviors that are not getting results. This is fundamental.

Reason #2: You Don’t Have the Right Goals (or you have too many of them)

Sometimes, people are focused on the wrong things and sometimes they are focused on too many things. If you try to attend to all of your competing priorities, you will lose focus. It is far better to apply more energy against fewer goals because, when it comes to setting goals, the law of diminishing returns kicks in which says in a nutshell that you will achieve 2-3 goals with excellence and 5-6 goals with mediocrity . That is because human beings are genetically hardwired to do one thing at a time with excellence. Multi-tasking is a myth. It causes an overload of the brain’s processing capacity.

Once you have the right goals and the right number of goals, you can identify the right people with the right strengths to apply towards specific goals. Here, you will have to make choices. Execution is about being laser focused and maintaining momentum. The pitfall is trying to get forward momentum on all your work instead of the most important work. You have ask yourself: “What will make the biggest impact?” and “What will get me the biggest bang for my buck?” Then, you have to make that thing happen.

Reason #3: You Don’t Have the Right People

In any team, organization, or coalition, there are strong performers and weaker ones. There are those that are fit for the task because the task speaks to their strengths and those that aren’t because, well, it doesn’t. Strong performers can be identified by their skills, knowledge and commitment. In any environment, you should know the strengths of the people are at the table. If you take a purely democratic and all-inclusive approach, you will miss the opportunity to identify the people who are most essential to achieving your goal. In the case of yourself this becomes about self-awareness.

Reason #4: You Don’t Have the Right Mechanism

Execution is a discipline and, well, it takes discipline to execute. What I mean by that is having the discipline to organize people, assemble resources, and then generate a plan that others can follow in a methodical and systematic process is what it takes to make progress. Organizations (formal or informal) and their related processes are largely conservative bodies that don’t like surprises or chaos. Therefore, you have to be as methodical in your approach as possible. This means disciplined project management, feedback loops, data driven decision making, clear roles and responsibilities, accountability measures, success metrics or key performance indicators (KPIs), kaizen (continuous improvement), scrum, agile, Six Sigma, Lean and so on.

Reason #5: You Don’t Have the Right Support

Finally, if you’ve made it this far and you really feel like you’re already doing all of these things, and yet somehow you’re still perceived as having an “execution problem,” then consider getting an Implementation Coach. Coaching is often used in organizations to fix leadership flaws, but that is only one focus of coaching. If the problem is truly endemic, I recommend hiring an Implementation Coach. The role of an Implementation Coach is to ensure that implementation success is a priority, working at the deepest level to build the skills, knowledge, capacities, systems, and processes needed to deliver results and then to ensure those results will be sustained. The main imperative of an Implementation Coach should be to delivering lasting outcomes.

In addition to being outstanding problem-solvers, these individuals are practical, experienced, and excellent coaches. Their distinctive strength is in knowing how to work with and coach people to get things done. These caching session are about focusing on larger behavioral patterns to the extent that they are getting in the way of the task at hand.

 A Final Word…

Ideas are a dime a dozen. I can give you 20 good ones in one conversation. Ideas without implementation are illusion. The art and science of success lies in their execution. Put another way, “the devil is in the implementation.” Many people get energetic about their ideas but fail when it comes time to establishing a systematic approach to execute on those ideas and fail in maintaining motivation. I’ll deal with motivation in some upcoming posts. For now, remember this: execution is a discipline in and of itself. It is the flip side of the coin to planning and setting the right strategy. You need both to succeed.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it valuable, please like, comment, and share it with your network so that it can benefit others.  I also invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to my BLOG to receive exclusive content not found here.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

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The Future of Work is Here and Leaders Need to Adapt NOW!

January 25, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“The future is here, it’s just not evenly distributed yet.” ~ William Gibson

The world of work is changing fast. Through technology and demographic trends, we are witnessing a movement away from cubicle farms where the physical nature of work was emphasized to decentralized nodes and networks where the virtual reality of work is the new normal.

By 2020, Millennials will constitute 50 percent of the workforce while Baby Boomers continue to work into their 70s and 80s. Yes, the generation that has (wrongly) developed a reputation for too many tattoos, too many piercings and too much entitlement will wield major influence on how work gets done. In truth, they represent the first generation of digital natives and the generation most ready to adapt to the future of work.

Major trends in technology that make remote work increasingly possible and more affordable for companies coupled with a globalized economy will accelerate the movement towards virtual work that out of necessity will be more collaborative and knowledge based.

Simply put, workers will continue to have more choice in how, where, and when they do their work. Therefore, leaders would be smart to adapt now to this new reality by enabling system and networks across their organizations that accommodate the new normal. To prepare for the impact and capitalize on the opportunities introduced by the future of work, leaders must adjust their organizational cultures and models now.

We don’t need to look too far to see this new reality. It is all around us.

The Future is Freelance

Nearly 10 years ago, Daniel Pink foresaw this phenomenon in Free Agent Nation, where he documented perhaps the most significant transformation since Americans left the farm for the factory as he witnessed the abandonment   of the Industrial Revolution’s most enduring legacy, the job, in favor of freelance, independent work.

Technology, market demand, and generational differences have fueled the expansion of the freelance economy and so called ‘gig workers.’ So much so that a new NPR/Marist poll, which surveyed workers across all industries and at all professional levels, found that 1 in 5 jobs in the U.S. is held by a contract worker.

For freelancers, the appeal is obvious—unlimited vacation time, ability to earn more from anywhere, and overall freedom. But there’s also plenty of benefits on the company side, such as reduced costs in recruitment, training and orientation as well as performance management and liability.

 The Future is Autonomous

Take as evidence the rise of results-only work environments, or ROWEs. In a ROWE, employees are allowed to work whenever they want with no set schedules. Employees are also allowed to complete their work however they want, and wherever they want, as long as it gets finished.

ROWEs leverage the powerful innate human desire for autonomy by giving people the freedom to choose when and how they will meet their goals. While ROWEs are still relegated to a handful of Silicon Valley start ups like AirBnB who practice the model with great ehem, results, they are an inevitable wave and future trend in the world of work.

The Future is Flexible

People want and need flexibility. Flexibility signals trust in an employee. According to the 2017 Deloitte Millennial Survey, 84% of Millennial employees report some flexibility at their job:

·        69% have flexible start/end times

·        68% have flexibility or crossover in their role

·        64% have flexible working locations

If the work doesn’t require the employee to be in a physical location, why require it? Remote work is not the same as contract work, of course, but combined, the two definitely represent the future of work.

The Future is Growth and Learning

People want to grow, learn and continually develop. We know from the same Deloitte study cited above for example, that 44% of those employed plan to leave their current role within two years, with lack of professional development as one of the primary reasons. Companies must place a greater emphasis on nurturing and developing their people in order to keep them. At the same time, the learning and development field would do well to demonstrate the value and ROI of such programs to executives. Demonstrating business impact to leadership and ensuring the right metrics are being used is still the holy grail of employee training even though the field has matured tremendously over the years.  Proving value to learners is equally important but so is keeping up with the way learners are evolving at a quicker pace than the learning programs that support them.

The Future is Automated

We live in a digital economy. We also live in a market economy, where supply and demand will ultimately determine the level and type of employment. Technology will eliminate many middle-income jobs or push them down into lower categories but remain complementary to more high skilled knowledge workers. This trend is already happening. If you’re a truck driver concerned with self-driving technology taking your job, you should be. If you are a writer, concerned with artificial intelligence taking yours, you should be too. It already is.

That said, the key to job security in the age of AI isn’t competition, but collaboration. Including collaboration with robots. Most of the automation, will come down to human–machine combinations.

The Future is Collaborative

Digital technology is having a profound effect on the workplace. The days when the office was the hub of productivity are over.  Communication, collaboration and connectivity are being transformed by technology, which has enabled remote work but also collaboration across organizational and geographical boundaries. Traditional face-to-face meetings are becoming obsolete while collaboration software is becoming omni-present. This will change team dynamics as well as procedures and policies. Team productivity will receive even more attention than personal productivity and visual communications will take on an even more important role.

The Future is Designer

If you want to keep your people — especially your stars — it’s time to pay more attention to how you design their work. Most companies design job descriptions and then slot people into them. This trend will be reversed. Companies will continue to compete for talented people and when they find them, they will create jobs around them.

Take as evidence a recent study by Wharton’s Adam Grant and members of Facebook’s HR of workers who remained at the social networking company and those who quit their jobs despite the perks of working at FB. The study revealed that when managers tailored a job to a given employee’s passions, talents and priorities, rather than try to slot them into a preconceived role, they ended up with more satisfied engaged workers who they retained longer.

The Future is Purposeful

People want purpose. This is especially true of Millennials, who have a different set of expectations from their employment and are attracted to careers that give them a sense of purpose. Just last week Laurence D. Fink, founder and chief executive of the investment firm BlackRock sent a letter to business leaders that their companies need to do more than make profits — they need to contribute to society as well if they want to receive the support of BlackRock. This is a seismic shift in the business world.

A final Word

The bottom line is that work in the future will be more networked, more mobile, more team based, more project based, more de-centralized, more collaborative, more real time and more fluid. The new reality will require better and different structures, models, policies, and procedures to more effectively help people communicate, collaborate and network. Therefore, leaders must begin to think of themselves as network architects increasingly experiment and role model their openness and flexibility to the new ways of working. Done well, the future of work offers the most exciting revolution since the industrial age in how employees will be motivated and engaged to impact the triple bottom line of people, planet, and profits. Oh yes, and purpose. As the old expression goes: “When it comes to the future, there are three kinds of people: 1) Those who made it happen, 2) those who let it happen and 3) those who wonder what happened.”

Which kind are you?

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

How to Get Stuff Done

January 17, 2018 • 7 minute read • by Saeed


“Eat a live frog first thing in the morning and nothing worse will happen to you the rest of the day.” ~ Mark Twain

The frog in the quote above is the things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do. We all have them. We all struggle with productivity. We all struggle with efficiency. Time is a finite resource and we can’t get more of it. So, the only way around this problem is to use our time better.

Planning ahead is key. So is starting. Above all, taking action and over thinking is what moves the ball forward.

If you’re a maladaptive perfectionist or a procrastinator who is always holding out for perfection, you might spend a lot of time stuck in this mode. Just pick your frog and eat it without thinking too much about it. Don’t confuse activity with efficiency. Being busy all day is not the same as being productive. The most effective way to be productive is to build effective habits and routines and execute them with military-like discipline.

eisenhower-boxOrganize Your Tasks

First things first, organize. Get a birds-eye-view. In order to get an overview of your tasks you can use a method such as the Eisenhower Box Technique to divide your to-do list in 4 categories:

 

 

  • Things you don’t want to do, but actually need to do.
  • Things you want to do and actually need to do.
  • Things you want to do, but actually don’t need to do.
  • Things you don’t want to do, and actually don’t need to do.

Now that you know what needs to get done, here are a few of my favorite ways to get stuff done:

Set it up for Success

One of the greatest barriers to productivity is not having a plan. Many of us want to exercise in the morning but never take our idea beyond that initial thought to set our self up for success. If you want to exercise in the morning, make a mental note before going to bed that you’re going to go for a run first thing when you wake up.  Take out your running shoes and clothes and put them by the door. Get your iPod ready with your favorite playlist or audio book too. Then, once you wake up, you’ll remember the first task on your list for the day and have everything you need right at your fingertips to do it.

Have the Right Tools

The right tools are critical to getting stuff done. Let’s say you’re going on a business trip. Yes, it’s great that you can read emails on your phone, but I doubt you’re going to type out a report on it. So by simply investing in an iPad and keyboard cover, you can multiply your productivity while on the road. I use my cell for all it’s worth so I recently invested in an external battery pack so I don’t have to walk around airports looking for charging stations. Portable MiFi devices can also come in handy. If there’s some item that will help you work better, think of it as a tool in your arsenal.

Set a Deadline

Timeboxing is a technique that encourages you to focus on time rather than tasks. The premise of the principle is simple. Having more time does not mean more productivity. Think about it: When you have all afternoon to finish a task, you’ll take all afternoon to do it. You’ll make fridge runs, go  for coffee breaks, check email or social media here and there, and do other things that are wasting your time. Studies have shown that putting limits on your time to complete a task actually increases the speed of your work. Such deadlines improve your focus and enhance creativity. Time limits are particularly effective because they force you to ignore distractions and prioritize work. Time limits force you to dive in and power through. This is concentrated time and not the false promise of multi-tasking your way into productivity. Once you complete one task, you can switch to the next and timebox that one accordingly. We each have peak productivity periods. Mine is early in the morning. My brain is freshest. My thoughts are crisp. By the end of the day, I’m pretty well fried. So I know that I’ll do my best thinking work between 5-7 AM. It is now 6:31 AM. The critical rule of timeboxing is that work should stop at the end of the timebox and progress should be evaluated to know if the goal has been met. Setting a timer is an effective way to do this, especially if you can see (or hear!) it counting down. Get a big old-fashioned LED or wind-up one to put on your desk, and you’ll have a constant reminder that your “deadline” is approaching. Shorter sprints, by the way, are best because your brain is able to focus on any given task for up to two hours (after which it needs a 20-30 minute break to recharge).

Have an Accountability Partner

Having an accountability buddy helps you get your work done better and faster. Whether it’s having a running buddy for your exercise routine or a team mate at work, the social facilitation of having someone who encourages you when you feel discouraged or someone who shares some of your goals gives you a competitive edge. You need someone nearby to help you keep pace, expect you to keep going, and celebrate with when you’ve made it to the end. The back and forth and inspiration you can get from an accountability buddy is especially good for powering through work you don’t enjoy. So, find a colleague and see if you can hunker down in a conference room one afternoon and power through your work together.  There’s certainly a time for quiet, deep thinking work, a time for working more loosely without a deadline, and a time for solo work. But when you have something that is a challenge or a stretch for your own current capacity, there is nothing like having an accountability buddy.

Bundle  Your Work

In life and work, there are things we like to do and things we don’t like to do. Research suggests that combining the things we want to do, with the things we should do, could be a way to get more stuff done. The so called ‘temptation bundling’ technique says to simultaneously combine two differing, but complementary, activities. The theory is that pairing a thing you like with something you don’t like, will give you a greater incentive to do something you might be putting off. For example, listen to an audio book (something I like) while I run (something I despise). The benefit is derived from simultaneity. The risk is associating your enjoyment of the task you like by pairing it with something unpleasant. I may no longer like audio books after I try this and I end up avoiding both. Nonetheless, the technique is premised on finding tasks that complement each other, and perhaps even work better, when combined. Although sustainability is a question for further study with this technique, we can’t magically become more productive so applying new methods to see what works is worth the effort.

A Final Word

It’s important to note that these aren’t the only strategies or strategies to use all the time for productivity. They are best practices and we have to experiment to see what works best for each of us and when to apply which technique. The bottom line however is that developing lifelong habits of productivity is what leads to success. The business world rewards those who produce results—not those who are simply busy. It is worth your time and effort therefore, to learn the habit of diving directly into major tasks and work steadily and tenaciously until that task is completed. If you regularly set priorities and get important tasks done quickly and efficiently, you’ll be recognized as an effective and productive member of the team or entrepreneur who not only talks the talk but also walks the walk.

So what if I have two frogs you ask. As Twain said: “If it’s your job to eat two frogs, it’s best to eat the biggest one first.”

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

The 4 Pillars of Leadership Effectiveness

January 11, 2018 • 4 minute read • by Saeed


“You don’t build a business. You build people. The people then build the business.” ~ Unknown

Leaders have numerous issues competing for their attention. And great leaders know how to focus their attention and how to direct the attention of others to what matters most. Indeed, the ability to focus attention is my favorite definition of leadership.

But what should leaders focus on? In over 30 years of leadership experience, I have narrowed this down to 4 key pillars, without which, it would be difficult to support an effective organization. They are as follows:

1.      Employee Well-Being and Engagement

Your people are your greatest asset. Above all, they should be healthy and happy. To maintain a high performance environment, you have to ensure that employee morale and engagement is high.  Your ability to develop people and motivate them will drive results and keep people engaged. Most people want to work in a dynamic environment where they feel they can thrive. They want to grow personally and professionally through training, coaching, and exposure to new ideas, people and situations. Therefore, you need to promote personal development that leads to additional opportunities for team members. Your top role is to inspire and engage people. If you don’t engage your teams, your organizational well-being will suffer. Finally, make sure your employees are cared for and can attend to their personal lives while they are helping build up your business.

2.      Employee Productivity and Goal Setting

Next, you must make sure that you challenge and stretch your employees. You must set expectations that will help you reach your goals for the company. You have to be on top of the short term goals and how they fit with your long term aspirations. Individual goals must be in alignment with company vision. A lack of alignment in this area will have an impact on performance levels as well as a person’s level of engagement. Set your employees up so they can be their most productive. This does not mean extract out of them an 8 hour day. This is the most simplistic interpretation of productivity. Give your employees productivity tools and hacks. Train them and build their capacity for productivity. Help them manage time, energy, focus and attention. Make sure your internal processes are not bottlenecking decisions or hampering their forward progress.

3.      Innovation and Continuous Improvement

To compete in today’s environment, you have to free up your employees so they can innovate. You have a pool of creative talent in your organization. Trust me, you do. If you don’t see it, it’s because you have not learned to tap into it. Creativity plays a large role in high performance work environments. Leaders need foster creativity by continually focusing on ensuring and rewarding creative work. You also need to communicate that everyone plays a meaningful role in achieving the company vision through their own creativity. You need to ‘create’ an environment where team members have the confidence to voice their opinions and concerns. When people feel that their voice is heard, they will speak up more and take more risks. They will be more engaged and will feel that the role they play is important to the overall well-being and success of the company. The surest way to squash creativity is through micromanagement and a focus on things that matter least. People feed off of encouragement. Focus on what they do well. Find their strengths and help your employees triple down on them.

4.      Effective Operational Processes

The final key area of focus is process. You can’t have the other three without efficiency in the day to day operations of the company. A good process adds value. Internal process should never be a barrier to getting things done. This is accomplished through the establishment of tested and true internal processes and protocols and through continuous review and improvement of them. Performance will suffer without a solid foundation for how things are done and a clear directive for what is expected. Therefore, how you want things done and a timeframe for when tasks and projects are to be completed needs to be clearly communicated and mutually agreed upon. This discipline needs to be executed consistently. If you keep changing up your processes, you will demoralize your employees. Before implementing a process it needs to be well thought out and then you need to be open to adjustments and input on improvement as identified by your team. Provide a forum so they can voice their opinions, thoughts and ideas to continuously improve how things are done.

A Final Word…

The top four areas are not the only areas of focus for a leader. Strategy, communication, emotional intelligence and so forth are also exceedingly important areas deserving of a leader’s attention. But in my experience, the four areas above are the most important. They are the most essential because without these four being strongly in place, you cannot have anything else. Focusing on these four pillars will help to communicate expectations for employees, create further engagement, and improve performance efficiencies. Upon these four pillars, you can build skyscrapers.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

Survive and Thrive: Why Leaders Must Foster a Culture of Cooperation

January 9, 2018 • 6 minute read • by Saeed


“The only thing that will redeem mankind is cooperation.” ~ Bertrand Russell

The current world population of 7.6 billion is expected to reach 8.6 billion in the next decade, 9.8 billion in 2050 and 11.2 billion in 2100. The global middle class alone is set to grow from 2.5 billion people to 5 billion people in 2030.

Minimally, our rates of consumption will increase while our natural resources become more stressed. Business (and life) as usual is not sustainable. Competition and the mindset of self-interest is not sustainable.

The Social Instinct to Cooperate

Are people intuitively selfish or intuitively cooperative? Harvard researchers Rand, Greene and Nowak took up this challenge and drew a fascinating conclusion: People have an initial impulse to behave cooperatively but with continued reasoning, become more likely to behave selfishly. In other words, we have a natural instinct to cooperate but given time to think about it, our self-interest kicks in. This has wide reaching implications from our personal relationships to our team building efforts to our current political divide.

Carol Dweck has spent decades at Stanford studying how behaviors are affected by what she calls a growth mindset. In a nutshell, her research has shown that people who believe their intelligence can be developed do better in life vs. those that believe intelligence is fixed.

A Stanford-led research team of psychologists put that theory to test with one of the most entrenched conflicts in modern history. Israel and Palestine have lost untold decades and lives over disputed territories. The mutual distrust between the two groups means they can’t work cooperatively on solving their issues.

The researchers found that by teaching Jewish-Israeli and Palestinian-Israeli teenagers that groups are generally capable of change—without ever mentioning a specific adversary— significantly improved their ability to cooperate. When the teenagers did not know about the political affiliation of the other, their perception and willingness to cooperate shifted significantly.

The Evolutionary Reason to Cooperate

Cooperation is not unique to humans. It’s not even unique to animals. Cooperation is part of nature. It starts at the cellular level. Life, from its beginning more than three billion years ago, took over the planet by networking and cooperation, not by combat and competition. This is the hopeful conclusion of a small but vibrant renaissance in the scientific community around the concept of cooperation and networks.

The reason why is simple. According to evolutionary biologists, cooperation is one of the most important and beneficial behaviors on Earth. We literally would not be here without it.

Humans, plants, and animals are made up of cells that learned to cooperate long ago. Together they formed multi-cellular organisms, increasing each individual cell’s chances of replication and survival in the process. From these biological building blocks, cooperation prevails at every level of the animal kingdom: Ants that move in formation; mutual inter-species grooming rituals; small birds protecting each other from predators; bats that share food to survive; and humans who co-edit Wikipedia articles and form lines for the bathroom. These are all examples of cooperative behaviors that have evolved as a result of the benefit we inherit from their practice.

Cooperation at Work

Cooperation seems at odds with what many people assume are the basic forces of Darwinian evolution. After all, only the strongest survive.

At the most basic level, cooperation is best defined as individuals working together in order to create a benefit for an entire group. Working together had an evolutionary purpose in that it allowed our ancestors to form strong groups thereby fostering maximal survival. Cooperation leads to social cohesion. It leads to innovation.

But people will cooperate with one another even when they have nothing to gain. That’s called altruism. Altruistic behaviors are as natural to humans as are competitive ones. It’s just that under particular circumstances and given certain personality traits, one or the other will prevail.

That means leadership and culture have a huge role to play in fostering cooperation in the workplace. The main barrier to more companies getting on board is not an objection to the principles or potential outcomes of cooperation, but rather, inertia.

The competitive edge in any business can be enhanced when an employer is able to build up a highly motivated, dedicated and efficient team of employees to serve their customers. To have an effective workplace cooperation mechanism in place is one of the means to achieve this end. To foster a cooperation mindset, is the other. For workplace cooperation to be effective, leadership commitment is crucial. In my experience, many leaders consciously or unconsciously actually encourage behaviors that undermine cooperation.

Shifting a business model away from a traditional competitive model to something more cooperative requires a real transformation in the way a business thinks and operates. It takes time, energy and effort and it takes communicating the value of the shift towards cooperation both internally to employees and externally to customers. Doing so, is a worthy investment which will bring enormous benefits to the enterprise in terms of enhanced efficiency, productivity and competitiveness. It starts with hiring and on-boarding practices that seek out and foster a cooperative mindset and spans to coaching mentoring and performance management practices that reward and nurture cooperation.

I believe that cooperative social organization, be it in the workplace or in society at large, that nurture networks of communication, encourage sharing and experimentation, and foster a climate of mutual support where a cooperative mindset can flourish, is the only way to solve society’s most pressing problems. In other words, cooperation is vital to our survival as a species.

What do you think?

 Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2018 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

To Make an Impact, Build Your Brand

November 27, 2017 • 5 minute read • by Saeed


“We would rather die as individuals than live without an identity.” ~ Ladan and Laleh Bijani

Marketers like to talk about brand identity – generally defined as all the brand elements (logo, messaging, colors, etc.) that a company creates to portray a specific image of itself to their customers.

How does this idea translate to personal brands? What is a personal brand? How is it defined? And what impact does it have on your career and on the world?

Let’s unpack these questions with a story about individual identity.

Each of us is separate but connected…

It’s the story of Ladan and Laleh Bijani, the Iranian conjoined twin sisters born in 1974 and joined at the head. Their inseparability presented unique challenges of identity and choice.

Ladan wanted to be a lawyer. Laleh wanted to be a journalist.

Ladan was into computer programming. Laleh was into computer games.

Ladan liked to read. Laleh was into Internet chat.

Ladan was extroverted. Laleh was more quiet and demure.

For years, the sisters were trying to convince doctors to perform the risky surgery that would separate them but most refused citing a 50 percent chance that one or both would die or suffer severe brain damage in the process. But the sisters were determined to pursue separate lives.

They eventually found a medical center in Singapore and with no less than 28 surgeons and 100 medical professionals in attendance, the risky surgery was performed.  But the twins’ brains shared a major vein and had fused together making the surgery very difficult. Due to the large amount of blood loss and other complications, the twins died on the operating table on July 8, 2003.

Medical ethics aside, the Bijani sisters’ plight evokes many other issues including that of individual identity. Their determination to live autonomously speaks to the strong desire in each of us for autonomy and individual identity. It is the physical boundary of the human body that serves as a means to distinguish one person from another. It is our inherent drive to express our interests, needs, and desires – distinct and separate from those of others – that defines our individual identity.

Yet, because humans are social animals, it is also true that our identity only has meaning in relation to others. Who you are, in other words, is defined through your interactions with others.

So, “identity” in its present incarnation has a double sense. It refers at the same time to the expression of an individual’s self and to that individual’s persona in a social context.

It starts with you…

Like everything else in life, developing a strong brand identity starts with knowing who you are.

Each one of us is a designer product. Indeed, if you consider that the chances of you being born exactly as who you are in this world is 1 in 400 quadrillion (1:400,000,000,000,000,000), your uniqueness begins to take on special meaning. In a world where everything is an equalizer, the one and only differentiator is you.

What are your values?

What are your beliefs?

What are your passions?

What do you do better than anyone else?

What makes you special?

What differentiates you from everyone else?

What is your voice?

What is your worldview?

What is your ‘why’?

What is your mission?

What is your story?

How do others describe you when you are not in the room?

These are just a few of the fundamental questions that if answered, begin to create the narrative of your personal brand. Before you start building your brand identity, it’s important to have a clear understanding of each.

As is the case with a company, your brand has to do with your persona, with how you perceive yourself and how others perceive you. Your brand is your reputation and your story, told in a consistent and compelling manner. Your brand is not your business card, it is your calling card. It’s what you are known for and how people experience you. Your brand goes with you everywhere you go. It changes jobs with you. Your brand can open doors to new opportunities or shut them down. Your brand is the culmination of your strengths. Identify them and then triple down on them. Simultaneously, weaken your weaknesses. Identify the Kryptonite around your neck and toss it into the ocean once and for all.

To define your brand, tap into your values, passions and purpose. These areas form the foundation of your personal brand and can help you chart a course for your career goals and position you to make a social impact.

A Final Word…

I believe all of us have a purpose in life. Your brand is how you make impact in the world. Your personal philanthropic mission is the outward expression of your values, passions and purpose channeled through your strengths and through who you are at your core.  Clarifying your uniqueness gives you greater purpose and direction. It provides the criteria for what to say “yes” to and what to say “no” to when faced with the many opportunities and requests you will encounter over a lifetime.

If you are still unsure about who you are, ask others for feedback because your brand is held in the minds of those around you.

For the Bijani sisters, one desire remained foremost: “We want to see each other — face to face,” Laleh said at a news conference prior to their surgery. “We want to see each other,” Ladan added, “without a mirror.”

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.

7 Ways To Solve Problems Like a Consultant

November 13, 2017 • 8 minute read • by Saeed


“All the greatest and most important problems in life are fundamentally insoluble … They can never be solved, but only outgrown.” ~ Carl Jung

At the core, consultants are problem solvers. Most consultants are brought in to solve a problem or provide a new way of looking at a problem. Garnering insights, thinking on your feet and learning to turn around a problem takes practice. The classic problem solving mechanism, based on a continuous improvement model, goes something like this:

1.      Define the problem.

2.      Assess all potential causes for the problem.

3.      Identify scenarios that can resolve the problem.

4.      Select a scenario for implementation.

5.      Develop an implementation plan.

6.      Monitor implementation of the plan.

7.      Verify if the problem has been resolved or not.

8.      Course correct as needed.

While, this is a rational and linear process that provides a clear frame of reference around which people can communicate, some people would argue (and they’d be right) that the world is much too chaotic for the rational approach to work as cleanly as intended. The dynamics of organizations and people are not nearly so mechanistic as to be improved simply by using off the shelf problem solving models.

In truth, the quality of an organization or life comes from how one thinks about the journey, not the destination. So, what I want to deal with in this post is the mindsetbehind the mechanism.

The mindset consultants bring to the table is different than most. They have to look past the problem itself. They have to challenge all of the assumptions and constraints around the problem. They have to ask the right questions which is far more important than having all the right answers. A good consultant will help the client come to their own conclusions while acting as a guide for the discussion.

Whether you are consulting on a project or not, and whether you are tackling problems in your personal life or at work, this post breaks down the mindset behind seven problem solving approaches you can take from the consulting world to begin breaking down your problems and tackling them like a pro.

1.      Consultants rely on data more than intuition.

I’m a big believer in intuition. But intuition is typically backed by years of experience. Consultants are typically generalists, which means they lack the 30 or 40 years of in-depth industry experience that their clients often have. Therefore, research will help you focus on key drivers that you can back up with hard data given your time constraints. Your boss or client might have a “gut” instinct for how to solve a specific problem based on their experience, and that is fine. But a good consultant will dig for hard data to prove or disprove that “gut” instinct before moving forward..

2.      Consultants don’t boil the ocean, they dive for the pearl.

It’s important to realize that when figuring out how to solve a problem, there is always an enormous amount of research and data analysis you could potentially do. Instead of trying to perform all of it, which is the equivalent of trying to boil the ocean, consultants focus on doing enough research and analysis to thoroughly prove or disprove the key drivers behind the problem they are analyzing and ignore everything else. By focusing their time and energy on the ‘key drivers’ of the problem, they dive into the largest and most salient aspects of the problem that, if solved, would have the biggest immediate impact. For example, if you are looking to cut costs, there may be a plethora of different ways to do that. Instead of spinning your wheels analyzing all of the potential cost saving areas, you’re better off focusing on the two or three costs that, if reduced, would have the largest overall impact on the organization.

3.      Consultants don’t just look at obstacles, they look for opportunities.

Most people see a wall, accept that it is there, and never examine the problem or even “push” against the wall to see where the resistance is coming from. Because no one has really checked, it may well be that the obstacle or constraint they were referring to was there years ago and no longer exists. Instead of thinking about what cannot be done, consultants think about what can be done. They use the obstacle as an opportunity to think of creative ways to overcome it. When you hit a wall, find a way to climb it or burrow a hole in the wall to get to the other side. Don’t just stand there and wonder why you hit the wall.

4.      Consultants don’t just see weaknesses, they look for strengths.

Focusing on strengths does not mean forgetting about your weaknesses and not working to improve them. But tripling down on your strengths will get you where you want to go faster than always pondering why your fail. A good consultant will hone in on and leverage you and/or the organizations’ talents, skills, or assets to make you even better at what they’re already good at. They will help you match people to environments or roles that are also congruent with their skills, knowledge, and assets. They will recognize this simple truth: most people are good at the things they enjoy, and they enjoy the things they’re good at.

5.      Consultants don’t focus on symptoms, they seek out the roots of the problem.

Consultants help determine the real problem – the problem behind the problem if you will. Often the client is trying to tackle a technical problem, when the issue is actually a business problem. It doesn’t help, for example, if you improve the efficiency and speed of your operations if the overall leadership strategy is driving the business off of a cliff. Finding the root cause requires persistence. It all starts by acknowledging the real situation. Ask yourself: “Is this same issue occurring again?” If your answer is “yes”, you are just facing and the symptoms are coming back again and again, you have a problem on your hands that requires a root cause analysis.

6.      Consultants look for how things have always been done and wonder if they could be done differently.

People are prone to all kinds of cognitive biases – be it false consensus or status quo bias or confirmation bias, or any of a variety of others that blind them to seeing the root cause of the problem or a viable solution.  People are often blinded by their very focused view of the world, and often get stuck on industry views, trends, and group-think within the company. Culture can stall innovation and constrain options. Consultants look for what’s behind the words someone is saying. Challenging all the basic assumptions is a good start to problem solving. In many cases the problem presented by the client is the wrong problem – they are asking the wrong question, and they just don’t know it.

7.      Consultants have more than a hammer in their toolbox.

In 1966 the prominent psychologist Abraham Maslow said: “It is tempting if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” When you only have one tool at your disposal, you fall prey to confirmation bias believing that the solutions to problems demand solutions we already happen to have at hand. When limited tools are applied inappropriately or indiscriminately, results suffer.  When a variety of tools are leveraged and customized to fit the situation, you are able to unlock the art of what’s possible. Build up your problem solving tool box with techniques you can adapt to a variety of situations.

A final Word…

In my experience consulting, nearly all the external constraints on a problem. To start, learn to ask probing open ended questions and see where they lead. Why is this important? How much does this impact the business? Why are you doing it this way? If you started from scratch today, would you do it the same way? What does that really mean? What matters most is don’t try to be clever or seem brilliant . Sometimes the right questions are being asked, and forcing some clever alternative is actually the wrong approach. Strategy consultants and problem solving professionals recognize that developing insight takes practice and takes active listening skills.  With practice and time, your problem solving process will become easier and you’ll be ‘nailing’ it like a pro.

Good luck.

Wait! Before you go…

I really appreciate that you are reading my post. If you found it helpful, I invite you to follow me on LinkedIn or subscribe to read exclusive content on my BLOG.

Why would you follow me?

I write personal and professional development articles to help readers be the most effective human being they can be; in short, to help you find your inner awesomeness. By liking, commenting, sharing, and following, you are encouraging me to keep going. It is my direct feedback loop that tells me that I am providing value to you.

I also love connecting with new people and seeing what others are up to in the world.

Last thing, if you liked this post, consider checking out my other recent posts for inspiration and concrete actions steps to become more effective at work and life.

Best,

Saeed

©2017 – All Content by Saeed H. Mirfattah, M.A.