Archive for Reflection


Fishing for Ideas: The Value of Reflection

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fishing-for-ideasDo you make time to stop for reflection?  Do you ponder information for more than a moment or two or do you quickly process and move on?

No, I’m not talking about the negative spirals where we deconstruct things done wrong, but rather that the deep, thought filled introspection on something meaningful.  The place you go mentally to ask yourself “I wonder” and “what if”, considering something from multiple viewpoints.

I’ve observed that we are busy, busy, busy these days.  We tell ourselves “have to keep up”, “I’ll get passed by”, “have to get this done now, no choice”, or “I don’t want to drop the ball and look bad”.  We all rationalize the need to keep moving.  It can often feel like if we slow down we will miss out.

What if you could actually do more by doing a bit less now and then?

In my experience, deep analysis and real strategic thinking has been getting short changed in our quest for speed.  Many do not see the value of pausing and have lost the art of reflection.

I believe we need to stop and make more time to reflect.  To give our busy minds down time to process the host of information we have collected, allowing our conscious and unconscious mind to connect.  By giving our minds a break from the constant pressure, we can often find new insights and creative ideas.

I remember reading that Thomas Edison was known for taking his fishing rod and sitting on the end of a pier, casting away.  However, he would never put any bait on his hook.  He would simply sit there for hours.  What is interesting is that he didn’t really want to catch any fish.  What he wanted to do was to sit there uninterrupted, allowing him to reflect.  Edison knew that if he looked as if he were fishing, no one would bother him – he could reflect uninterrupted.   What Edison was really after, what he wanted to catch, was ideas.

One might say that reflection is the root of my Ponderings and Insights blogs.  Have you noticed that my blog articles contain embedded questions?  That I don’t typically write about:

  • 7 insights for marketing success
  • 3 critical pieces of advice for change
  • 12 steps to getting attention
  • How I succeeded, and you can too

I provide information, sometimes a story, and ask you to consider some questions.  I want you to do some internal analysis and think for yourself.  For me, writing these blogs is a way to stop and reflect on a concept, and then share with others.  Each of my blogs is my own reflection of sorts – where I share items that have been ruminating in my mind.

So here are several important (well, important to me) questions for you to ponder and reflect, to gather your own personal insights:

  • How do you spend your time?  Are you allocating it to the right things?  Things that are strategic, not just tactical and have longer term value?
  • Are you perhaps rushing along so fast, working, working, working?  Do you need to lift your head and mind, to allow your conscious and unconscious to connect?
  • What comes to mind when you observe someone looking out a window or perhaps sitting on a park bench “doing nothing”?  Do you know for sure that they are doing nothing?  Might they, perchance, be thinking and reflecting?  Perhaps they are like Thomas Edison, taking time to consider their creations and fishing for ideas.

My wish for you today is to find time to stop, pause, and to reflect.  To make the time for critical, strategic, inside work that is sorely needed these days.

So let’s go fishing together, reminding ourselves that the next time we see someone “doing nothing”, that they might just be fishing for insights and ideas instead.  Here’s to catching more!

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The Benefits of Simplification

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Today I read an article by a colleague, Patti Johnson, titled “Why Stepping Back and Making It Simple Solves Everything.”  While I do not completely agree with the title, I absolutely do agree with the premise.  We need to step back and simplify.  While I don’t believe it will solve everything, I do believe it will help – in many ways.

Work, life, business and even relationships have all become increasingly complex.  Often times significantly more than they need to be.  We work to “manage” life, rather than simply living it.

I believe that there are many drivers for this – some intentional, many unintentional.  Most of us do not create complexity “just because,” but as a result of other drivers, including:  thoroughness, lack of analysis, focus on the wrong issues, disconnects in strategy, fear of failure, desire to “get it right”, and concern about perceptions, to name just a few.

I could write a bunch of additional words here but in an effort to simplify, I’ll simply leave you with some questions to ask yourself (yes, pun intended).  Over the next week ask (possibly repeatedly):

  • Why are you doing that task?
  • What are you trying to achieve?
  • Are you seeking to “hear” and understand or are you busy talking?
  • What would happen if you didn’t do it (process, task, activity)?
  • Is that REALLY what would happen…?
  • What can you do to simplify not just your work, but your life?
  • Have you sat outside in nature lately, just being present in the world?
  • Have you walked barefoot in the grass or on a sandy beach, grounding yourself?
  • Do you really need that suit, dress, piece of furniture, car, or is it actually a want?
  • How come we often teach children about the differences between want and need but forget it ourselves?
  • What does reduce, reuse, recycle really mean to you? 
  • Could it mean more than that?
  • Can you get by with less “stuff”, rather than more?
  • What might you get back if you simplified your life?

Simplification isn’t always easy.  In fact, it can be darn hard.  It can take guts, sweat, a few tears, and facing our own fears.  But in the end you might find that you have given yourself something very important.  Perhaps a closer connection with yourself, your family or friends, more free time, more money back in your pocket, less stress at work, or even a new respect for nature and the circle of life.  You might find a bit more peace in the midst of the chaos we call life.

May you find ways this week, month, and year to simplify your life.  I think it’s time to go work on simplifying mine.  Peace my friends.

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I recently wrote about how far the Change Management profession has come in Change Management – It’s Come a Long Way Baby!.  Now it’s time for the “but” portion.  While we have come a long way, we have a ways to go yet.  In addition, I’ve seen several negative consequences from the steps we have taken.

“But” #1 – Change Management is much more than a set of tools and templates or a specific methodology.  These are good building block but they do not guarantee a solid delivery.

In the prior article I talked about the positive impact of the adoption of a set of CM tools.  The “but” is that I also observed large gaps in understanding change fundamentals.  I also observed significant gaps in execution ability. 

Change Management had been “dumbed down” to focus on Communications and Training.  Awareness had been built around the basic concept of Change Management.  What was missing was a solid understanding of the nuances of Change Management and the psychology, human behaviors, and neuroscience behind it.  There were also significant gaps in understanding when to engage practitioners and how to integrate them effectively into project teams. 

Yes, Communications and Training is a portion of Change Management but it that’s not all.  Yes, tools are helpful, but they don’t solve problems or drive change by themselves.

“But” #2 – Change Management practitioner is not a one size fits all title.  There are a myriad of different skill sets – from beginner to expert.  At this same client, individuals who had been through a 3-day Change Management training program were deemed ready to be “Change Management practitioners,” able to support all the organization’s Change Management needs.  While they certainly knew more than they did prior to the 3-day program, it wasn’t enough for them to be able to successfully drive the necessary changes. 

But what is Change Management?  I’ve been thinking about the analogy that good Change Management is like creating beautiful music. 

Tools, templates, and methodologies can be viewed as the notes and musical arrangements.  The practitioner as the player.  Individual practitioners translate the notes on the page into music for the listener to enjoy.  How they sound varies based on the instrument played and the skill of the individual playing. 

Some music players have basic training, know the process, and have some technical proficiency but lack artistry.  Some musicians may have a high level of artistry in their music without years of training.  For them, it’s an innate skill.  Others are skilled at more than one instrument. 

At my client, the individuals who had been “certified” had learned several musical scores, but did not the practice and experience that they needed to play with the Symphony. 

But how do you tell “good” Change Management?  Outstanding musicians don’t need the sheets of music in front of it – they know it.  That doesn’t mean that they never have the musical score up, but rather they know when they should have it up and when they don’t need it. 

Musical virtuosos not only play the notes on the page, they adjust it.  They make it “come alive” for those listening. 

To further this analogy, the same note, a middle C, sounds different not only based on the instrument played but also a variety of other factors.

The best artists have both form and function.  Lessons, practice, experience and artistry – some artistry taught while another portion innate.  They “feel it” and sense it.  They make adjustments as they play.  The make adjustments based on the instrument they are playing and the environment they are playing in (e.g., a room or music hall).  They move to different locations on the stage, sit or stand, and wear different attire depending on what emotions, messages, and originality they want to convey.  They adjust their playing based on who is listening, what they are playing, where they are playing, and why they are performing.

Those that are at the top of their game, the virtuosos, fine-tune their performance based all the factors above.  Each performance is unique, never to be duplicated.  It can’t be.  This variation is not bad, it simply is a result of both experience and the dynamics of the situation. 

Sometimes the differences are based on whether the artist is “on” that night or not.  Sometimes the differences are driven by external factors that the artist has no control over.  Cell phone interruption can’t be blamed on the performer…  All performances might be outstanding, but it is likely that some are slightly better than others.  Which was better often depend on the individual listening.

A single performance is heard and interpreted differently by the various audience members.  This variation comes from differences in expectations, their backgrounds, their individual musical ability and even their individual moods. 

It’s also about two sides of the situation – the person playing and the person listening.  A person who is tone deaf won’t notice the missed notes and errors as much as an individual with perfect pitch.

In conclusion…

Value how far we have come, but don’t but understand we have a long way to go. 

  • “Certification” does not mean the individual is a skill musician.  Notes and musical scores by themselves are simply not enough.  
  • Change Management practitioner is not a one size fits all title.  There are different levels of skills from beginner to virtuoso. 
  • Not everyone playing is an artist – some are just learning the notes. 

Great music is often difficult to describe, but you know it when you hear it.  The same goes for great Change Management practitioners and their efforts.  They might be on a street corner or playing in a music hall.  They might be chatting in Linked In or doing a large scale change effort.  You just know what you are hearing is great – it moves you in some way, connects you, brings your emotions out, and perhaps changes you in some way…hopefully for the better.   


The View From Where You Are…

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The differences in individuals’ unique viewpoints have been driven into my head several times recently – literally.  My literal “knocking on the noggin” made me pause to think about a more metaphorical view.  How differences in our viewpoint can lead us to different actions.

We have recently moved and things are in that “normal” state of total chaos.  Part of the chaos is working from makeshift furniture as you wait for the “real” furniture to arrive.  I’ve discovered that this wait has come with a bonus, and not a positive one.  What’s my bonus?  I keep knocking my head on a light fixture. 

This experience made me stop to think about why interventions sometimes work but sometimes don’t.

I’ve tried three interventions…but they aren’t working. 

1 – Several times I have placed a chair right under the light.  The intent is a physical barrier I must walk around.  It works for a bit, but the chair keeps moving…

2 – I’ve moved a table under the light.  Somehow the table keeps getting moved too…

3 – I remind myself that I need to remember the light is hanging down.  Hum, brain must be full or the information getting knocked back out because just reminding myself to watch out for the light fixture hasn’t stopped the knots from accumulating on my head.

This doesn’t seem to be a problem for anyone but me… 

Hum, what is their viewpoint I wonder?  How might it differ from mine?

  • For Skyler and Sydney, it’s above their head.  They never think twice about it. 
  • For Bruce, it’s in his line of sight.  He simply walks around. 
  • For myself, it seems to be just out of my visual line of sight, but clearly not out of the physical realm.   I’m the only one experiencing the problem.

During my analysis, I determined two root causes for failure.

1 – I didn’t involve others in my intervention…

It’s not that the chair moved itself, a person moved it.  Bruce had no idea why there being a lone chair in the middle of the room, so he kept moving it where he percieved it to be “out of the way”. 

How often do we institute an intervention but forget to communicate with key individuals that impact our intervention?  In this case, I sure did.  Why didn’t I?  I thought it would be obvious why the chair kept being placed under the light fixture.  Clearly it wasn’t.

2 – I wasn’t solving the problem in the right way…

My third intervention, reminding myself about the light fixture hanging down clearly isn’t working.  The lumps on my head are proof of that.  The multiple mental reminders clearly aren’t enough to fix the problem.  I don’t think about this at the point of need – before I run into the lamp.

Do we need to change our viewpoint more often?

The 5th time I whacked my head I finally stopped to assess the situation a bit deeper.  One of the outcomes of that analysis is this article.

I asked myself how often do we just look at situations from our own viewpoint.  Might we feel that the problem is so obvious that we don’t need to communicate the issue to others?  Then we wonder why others aren’t lining up to agree “yes, that’s a problem”. 

The answer is clear.  They aren’t lining up with our solutions and interventions because the issue/problem is not an issue/problem for them!  It certainly was the case in my example of the light fixture meets the “noggin”. 

Others may naturally go under, around, or above what we keep running into (physically and/or metaphorically).  Why would they see a need to fix or change something if it isn’t a problem for them?  It’s not that they wouldn’t support our needs, they simply may not be aware of what support we need (aka leave the chair in the middle of the room please).  The problem is we haven’t communicated with them – sharing our needs and intentions.

The Lessons Learned…

  • Remember to check the viewpoint from multiple angles.
  • Don’t make assumptions – others may not see or experience what you are.
  • Check to make sure you are solving the right problem.
  • Understand both short-term and long-term solutions. 
  • Communicate.
  • Duck, when walking near that darn chandelier.  It’s heavy and I have enough lumps on my head!
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What Might You Find if You Stopped to Look? I see a squirrel in the clouds. Did you even notice their shape or did you focus on the path of the dock?

Do you ever stop and think about what you wrote, what you read, how you acted?  If so, do you do so for more than a moment or two?  

No, I’m not talking about that self-critiquing that we can get into – the “what if’s”, “if only’s”, “if I hadn’t” analysis where we might beat ourselves up.  Many of us (myself included) need to do less of that.  Rather, that moment of stepping back from ourselves to look at ourselves and situations from a different viewpoint. 

To think about what we want, how we feel, what alternatives are out there?   That point where we pause, consider, ponder.  That place where we go to say “I wonder” or “hum, what if” or we play with ideas?

Too often we are busy, busy, busy moving forward.  Got to keep moving or I’ll get passed by.  That’s what we tell ourselves.  
You might have been hearing lately that we should stop and make time for strategic planning activities.   Real strategic planning has been getting short changed in our quest for speed – if you haven’t, take note of this advice now.  If you need to, schedule time on your calendar to stop and do some.  
That being said, I believe we need to stop and make time for even more than that.  We need to stop and reflect.  To stop and ponder.  To give our busy minds downtime to process.  Providing a break in the pressure often leads to insights and creative spurts. 
As I was responding to a blog by Sally Hogshead earlier today I found myself in that observational frame of mind, the one that I move into when I’m pondering something.  An outside observers view.  I realized that it’s a state that I move into more frequently than most people do.  One might say that it is the root of my own blogs.  I don’t write about:
  • 7 insights for marketing success
  • advice for the needy
  • 12 steps to getting attention
  • how I succeeded and you can too
Ok, well maybe I do a bit of the last.  The key question is succeeded in what?  I can, and likely do define success quite differently than you do.
What do I do in my blogs?  I ask you to reflect.  To think.  To ponder and find insights.  I’m successful if I’ve made you think, at least according to my definition of success for our time here together. 
Have you noticed that every blog/article/post I have write has embedded questions?
Sure, I give you some information, sometimes a story, but I ask you to think for yourself, do some analysis, do some reflection.  To draw your own conclusions. 
Why?  Because I’ve come to understand that one facet of my Life’s Work or Life Goal/Purpose is to get people to think more.  To raise their self-awareness.  To help people become more authentic.  But how can you do this if you don’t take the time to stop and pause long enough to think?
Are you allocating your time to the right things?  The things you need – not just want, that have longer term value.  The things that relate to your Life, your Life’s work, what you want out of Life.  The Life that passes you by when you are too busy to notice.  Or, are you rushing along so fast, working working working, that you don’t even know what you want from Life? 
What is it that you want from Life?  Do you know?  I wonder…
At this point, I’m wondering why that commercial with the tag line of “what’s in your wallet” (Captial One maybe?) keeps running through my mind.  I’ve heard that phrase in my head at least four times as I’ve typed this.  Maybe it’s because I’m wondering about what’s in your mind.  So,
  • What is on your mind? 
  • Have you stopped to think and reflect lately? 
  • Have you stopped to think about what you want in Life?
  • What do you really want from your Whole Life, not just your Work Life? 

I wonder what you might find out if you did.

I’d like to ask you to stop with me today.  To look at yourself from a different viewpoint.  To think about what you want and how you feel?  To pause, consider, ponder.  To ask yourself “I wonder” or “hum, what if” and played with ideas instead of just taking action.

In closing, I wanted to share something I saved from my friend Jim Estill’s blog.  I think he got it from a book on Reflection, but don’t quote me on that… 

  • “It was said that Thomas Edison would often take his fishing rod, sit at the end of the pier, cast away, and then just sit there for hours.  However, he would never put any bait on his hook.  He didn’t really want to catch any fish.  What he wanted to do was to sit there uninterrupted, just reflecting on the issues of the day, on his work, or on whatever else came into his mind.  He knew that if he looked as if he were fishing, no one would bother him, so he could reflect uninterrupted.  All he really wanted to do was catch ideas.” 

So now I’m wondering…

  • How do you define success?
  • What do want to do or accomplish in Life?
  • What do you get from these ponderings of mine?  Do they actual provoke your thinking?

Will you share your thoughts?  It doesn’t take much, simply click on the word Comments – down there on the right.  Type in that text box and hit that Submit button.  I’d love to hear from you.

Guiding Principles

- Think Holistically
- Seek the Root Causes
- Respect the Individual
- Demonstrate Accountability
- Collaborate with Clients
- Work with Integrity, Always
- Relate to the Business Strategy
- Ensure Alignment
- Demonstrate Responsibility
- Transfer Skills

Thoughts and Quotes