Focused where it is truly needed

To do a job effectively, one must set priorities.  Too many people let their ‘in’ basket set the priorities.  On any given day, unimportant but interesting trivia pass through an office; one must not permit these to monopolize his time.  The human tendency is to while away time with unimportant matters that do not require mental effort or energy.  Since they can be easily resolved, they give a false sense of accomplishment.  The manager must exert self-discipline to ensure that his energy is focused where it is truly needed.” – H. G. Rickover, as quoted by Theodore Rockwell in The Rickover Effect

Leadership attention; it is a real constraint in your organization.

If you want more from your organization, first focus on freeing up leadership attention.

Stop doing pointless tasks just because someone said you must.  Show them why you mustn’t.

Carve out time to think deeply about something.  Schedule a real block of time into your Outlook calendar and refuse to double book the time.  Then, shut the door and think.  It is that simple.

Allow someone else to attend a meeting for you, carry your regards to another group for you, or fill in for you.  They will grow and you will be free to do something else that matters, in effect doubling what you can accomplish.

It’s hard to stop doing the trivial, but it’s not climbing Mt. Everest hard.  It’s more passing up the offer of a cookie in the mid-afternoon.  It’s hard to resist because the temptation is so close and the consequences seem so small, yet there remains a great win in resisting.

Focus where it is truly needed and you will get closer to the organizational (or personal) results you most desire.

Why not try?

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Linchpin Meet-up Complete

Thanks to the ten people who joined me for the first world-wide Linchpin meet-up day.  We had a simple, enjoyable time relaxing over pizza and beverages.  I meant to take photos and forgot.

Now that I’ve got a taste for how easy it is to put a meet-up together, I may just have to make local meet-ups a quarterly affair.  I know some people out there prefer a few minutes of actual conversation intermixed with quality electronic communications.

In this grab bag post I’ll send out my best wishes for my good friends attending the Edward Tufte one day course in Seattle this Tuesday or Wednesday.  I know you’ll have a blast and can’t wait until Thursday when I can hear all about how much you liked the class.  Remember to watch not only the content of the course, but how Tufte delivers the content.  He’s giving you a lesson in teaching that he’s thrown for free.

Never to leave a post without one great link, enjoy this article on leadership from the American Scholar.  I’m finding myself recently drawn to the speeches given to the men and women in our service academies.  Perhaps its the implied purpose of the cadet’s life that makes the speaker want to say something worth remembering.  Whatever it is, we’re all benefiting.

Wishing you a fabulous week of driving change – April

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My “Leading Change” Story

Tomorrow Professor John Kotter visits my workplace, to see how successful we’ve become at using his model to create real, lasting change.  (link to the press release) Today I found Rogue Polymath’s post about what reading Leading Change did for him, and his post prompted me to write “My Leading Change Story.”

I can’t remember how I found the book (and that’s odd because I can usually tell you exactly how I found each book on my shelf) but I first read Leading Change in 2005.

I had just entered a newly created position as the Theory of Constraints Project Engineer for a more than 700 person department.   My job: Implement Theory of Constraints principles throughout the department.  I had a huge job on my hands, lots of idealism and very little experience in change management; I needed help.

Then, somehow, I found Leading Change.  I read it, loved it and in my excitement promptly formed my own Guiding Coalition.  I recruited deputies from each area of the department to serve, I set up meeting, worked on a vision and people came to my Guiding Coalition…for a while.

My Guiding Coalition members, rightly, lost interest in spending their limited time listening to me tell them how to make my change.  I hadn’t built the sense of urgency.  I’d jumped straight to the Guiding Coalition, ignored a vision other than my own, refused to empower people and never captured a single win for them.  I had tried to drive people and driving people never works for long.  I learned that lesson hard.

My first attempt at Leading Change was such a huge failure I should say it again:

My first attempt at Leading Change was a huge failure.

Why did I fail? I hadn’t followed the model.  I hadn’t built a sense of urgency.  I didn’t yet understand how to make it work (i.e., the difference between driving people and driving change).

In 2007, on my second try at Leading Change, I had the opportunity to work with the newly formed command Guiding Coalition.  In that group I found people who’d brought their own sense of urgency with them to every meeting.  They’d applies to be there and were grateful for the opportunity to lead change.

What a difference their inner energy made!

They were coming to the Guiding Coalition not because they “had to” but because they “got to.”  They were focused and ready to drive change, and they immediately started to make a difference.

In my years with our Guiding Coalition, I’ve had the privilege to learn:

  • what it looks like when you’ve created a compelling vision and communicated that vision well
  • what if feels like to empower others to take action and then capture, celebrate and consolidate their wins
  • and what is means to everyone involved and everyone affected when you embed the successes in the culture.

Everyone who’s been a part of our Leading Change journey should be very proud of what they’ve accomplished.

I know I’m proud to be associated with all of them.

Let’s keep driving change by Leading Change.  Who’s with me?

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Build a new habit: Put the card in your wallet

For years I’ve carried around a business card with John Kotter’s emotions that work for and against change written on the back of it. Pulling out the card and reading it helped me build a habit of recognizing when I was adding to or robbing from the change I was trying to drive.

Because of my previous card carrying experience, I’ll admit to being open to Ralph Soule’s recommendation that I print and carry a card on how to practice inquisitive and active leadership.  I’ll be printing mine today.

If you’re looking for a system to practice to improve your leadership (of yourself first and then others), then check out both his blog post and the additional material at the link.

Both are well worth the read.

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