Authenticity Matters

Authenticity Matters

“Heroes are never perfect, but they’re brave, they’re authentic, they’re courageous, determined, discreet, and they’ve got grit.”~ Wade Davis

Authenticity Matters

Quantum physics is freakishly difficult to understand. The particles that make up an atom don’t behave based on the set of Newton’s Laws we all learned in high school. Simply observing a subatomic particle can change its behavior. There’s a famous quantum-mechanics trial known as the double-slit experiment. Electrons are shot at a barrier containing two slits. One would expect that on the other side of the barrier, the electrons would form a single type of pattern. In the world of quantum mechanics, there can be two distinct patterns formed by the electrons depending on if the experiment is observed or not observed. As hocus pocus as it sounds, on a quantum level matter changes behavior based solely on observation or the lack thereof.

People act in much the same way as electrons. Our behavior patterns are different when we know someone has their eye on us. When guests are coming over, we clean an already spotless house. When the boss is around, we modify our behavior to become what we think our superior wants, or we shellac whatever they’re checking on. Everyone wants to put their best foot forward. When we put on a face for others that differs from our day-to-day self, a problem arises. As a leader, our team members see this well-intentioned, but ultimately duplicitous behavior and feel that it is appropriate to mimic it—with others and with you.

Be yourself, warts and all. You’ve heard it all your life, but that doesn’t give you permission to not work on your warts. The more authentic you are with yourself and others, the more genuine they will be with you. As a side note… keep an eye on quantum-mechanics-related technology. Like the prediction of plastics in The Graduate, it is the future

Consider this …

1. In what areas of your life, business, or organization to you tend to whitewash reality?

2. What would be the consequences of being authentic in those areas? What are you afraid of?

3. How can you make the necessary changes in those areas so that you can be authentic, without fear?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

 

 

The Big Sur Bear

“How others treat me is their path; how I react is mine.”~ Wayne Dyer

the big sur bear

Every summer as a teenager, the future The Grapes of Wrath author John Steinbeck would ride his horse up the untamed Santa Lucia Mountains to Big Sur. He worked at Billy Post’s ranch tending to the cattle or fixing fences for pocket money for the next school year. One year, halfway to Billy’s spread, John’s horse cold stopped in the middle of a trail. John nudged the beast with his heel, but not another step would she take. Reaching for his rifle and looking around, John thought his steed had caught a whiff of a mountain lion. Out of the corner of his eye, he saw it—a bear, twice as big as a grizzly and big enough to carry a mule in its jaws.

John’s horse bolted back down the mountain, and it was an hour before he reined her in. When he arrived late to the Post ranch, John gave a full account of running into a legendary Big Sur bear. Mr. Post and his other hands crowed at John because the Big Sur bear was a fairy tale and they called him a dirty liar for spinning the yarn. With his integrity questioned, John spent the rest of the summer looking for proof the Big Sur bear existed. He spent his meager wages to buy plaster to make a cast of the giant bear’s tracks. As the summer wore on, John and his horse explored the most inaccessible places of Big Sur with no luck. John’s horse was injured on one outing, and he spent his remaining wages nursing the animal back to health. Soon the season was over, and John had as much money as he had proof he wasn’t a liar.

You might think John Steinbeck was foolish or lied about the Big Sur bear. His willingness to forego a school year’s worth of pocket money to prove his integrity says otherwise. Is your integrity worth a year’s wages? If not, you could be due   for some soul-searching.

Consider this …

1. On a scale of one to ten (one being low and ten being high), how would you rate your integrity— the frequency with which your words are truthful or your words match your deeds.

2. If your answer was anything less than ten, where must you make changes in order to close the gap?

3. Integrity literally means “whole.” Therefore, when one lacks integrity, it literally means they are “broken.” How can you finish every day such that you are whole and unbroken?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in Top Performer’s Field Guide)

Meet Them on Their Turf

“At Netflix, we think you have to build a sense of responsibility where people care about the enterprise. Hard work, like long hours at the office, doesn’t matter as much to us. We care about great work.” ~ Reed Hastings

Meet Them on Their Turf

Civil servants are some of the most underappreciated members of our society. John, a decorated Vietnam veteran who had been a rural county’s Veterans Affairs Officer for the past twenty-five years, was widely considered one of the most impactful officers in his state. He was asked what the secret was to his success.

He grinned and said, “It’s no secret. I don’t keep office hours.”

When pressed on this confounding statement, John nodded, saying, “Oh, I do the paperwork. I work the phones. In fact, for the first two years on this job, I barely left the office. And you know what? Very few veterans came to see me for help. I could not understand why they wouldn’t. They knew where I was. Many of them knew me personally. But they didn’t come.

“After I had realized that they weren’t coming to me, I had to find them,” he explained. “They have gone to the ends of the earth for our country. The least I could do was show them enough respect to go the short distance to where they are.”

John got out of the office and went to where the veterans were. He went to VFW halls. He met veterans in their workplaces. He went to their functions, meetings, churches, and homes. Recently returned from duty, veterans had lives they had put on hold and were anxious to pick up where they had left of. They didn’t have extra time to spend driving to the Veterans Affairs office to wait for their number to be called.

There’s more to a business than simply opening your doors and hanging up a sign; sometimes you need to meet your clients where they are. If you’re an entrepreneur or salesperson and you want to double your sales, try doubling the amount of time you spend face to face with qualified prospects and customers. Now that’s a thought …

Consider this …

1. How many hours a week (on average) do you spend actually interacting with qualified prospects, customers, or key stakeholders?

2. What are the things that distract or prevent you from spending more time with your customers or stakeholders?

3. Put a plan in place to address these distractions and make a commitment to double the amount of time you are engaged with customers or stakeholders.

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

Lie To Me

““False words are not only evil in themselves, but they infect the soul with evil.”~ Socrates

Lie To Me

The difference between success and unfavorable outcomes can rest in the margins. Misreading or being misdirected during a face-to-face conversation can hold dire consequences in any setting. Unless you have been trained by the CIA, everyone has a predisposition to express hidden emotions via physical tells. The nonverbal language is so pervasive within specific cultures, those messages are constantly being coded and decoded when two people have a conversation. Handshakes are the easiest to discern. The weak dead fish handshake denotes trepidation while the aggressive “turn the shake on its side, so the other person’s hand is on top” maneuver indicates that person is controlling.

One of the largest problems leaders face is dishonesty. From the little white lies to cover tardiness to larger departures from reality, using body language to spot deceit will serve you well in any capacity. Neuro-Linguistic Programming (NLP) experts suggest that often, liars will subconsciously cover their mouth or throat when speaking, physically attempting to cover the lie before it escapes. Sometimes the act of pointing can be a physical sign of misdirection. If someone closes their eyes for more than one second or blinks excessively, some form of deceit or half-truth could be lurking below the surface. Of course, none of these clues are foolproof. Someone may be blinking excessively because their contact lenses are out of whack. Additionally, cultural differences also can eschew the body language lie detector.

The larger question at hand is, Why does that person feel the need to be dishonest with you? Workplace lies often arise from not wanting to displease a leader or team member. If your reactions to suboptimal results are too harsh, your team may be more inclined to part from the truth. Leaders are lied to every day and will be no matter what your demeanor. Just make sure you’re not fostering a workplace where exchanges of honesty carry too high a penalty. Successful leaders and top performers create an environment where truth telling is safe, encouraged, and rewarded.

Consider this …

1. Identify three people within your team you explicitly trust to tell you the truth.

2. Ask them for feedback regarding the “climate” for truth telling in your project, business, or workplace.

3. If it’s solid, ask them for feedback to keep it going. If it’s bad, ask about ways to make it better … then do it!

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in Top Performer’s Field Guide)

Inspiration Lies All Around You

“I get inspiration from my everyday life.”~ JHayao Miyazaki

Inspiration Lies All Around You

Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, is no stranger to rejection. China’s richest man wasn’t the greatest student. He scored a whopping 1 on a 120-point college entrance math exam and was rejected by Harvard 10 times. Ma settled on majoring in English at the appropriately named Hangzhou Normal University. After getting his degree, Ma applied for thirty jobs and received thirty rejection letters. Prospects were so thin that Ma interviewed to work in the kitchen at a Kentucky Fried Chicken. Twenty-four others applied at KFC with Ma and twenty-three got jobs. Jack Ma was not one of the “lucky ones.” The only work Ma could f nd was a twelve-dollar-a month gig teaching English.

Even when Ma had the idea of using the Internet to connect Chinese businesses with the rest of the world, Alibaba was something of a fop. The industrial-sized eBay didn’t show a profit for its first three years and was eighteen months away from bankruptcy. Now Alibaba is worth about $250 billion. Why? Jack Ma credits a portion of his success to Forrest Gump.

As ludicrous as it sounds, the film version of Forrest Gump’s simplistic “box of chocolate” witticisms gave Jack hope to remain persistent in his vision. The lesson here is not persistence—that’s the common denominator in examining any visionary’s success. The lesson is to draw inspiration anywhere you find it. Remove the blinders and look around! If you are always seeking out gurus living on mountaintops for guidance, you’re missing out on messages that are in your world every day. From a line of a cheesy pop song to a word of encouragement from your usually annoying neighbor, inspiration can be all around you. Are you ready to listen?

Consider this …

1. About three weeks ago, you identified areas within your work or business where you are prone to “give up” prematurely. What actions have you taken in
the past three weeks or so to display common persistence in those areas? Do you need to renew your commitment in this regard?

2. Look back over your life and career. Where have you experienced temporary setbacks, yet reigned triumphant in the end? What inspired you to keep going? From where did this inspiration come?

3. From where do you normally derive inspiration today?

4. In what areas of your work or business do you need inspiration now?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide.)

 

 

Pushing Rocks Uphill

“The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance. The wise grows it under his feet.” ~ James Oppenheim

Pushing Rocks Uphill

The Greek mythological figure of Sisyphus is familiar to most of us even if we don’t remember his name. He’s the poor guy that was doomed by the gods to eternal pointless labor. Each morning, Sisyphus would wake up at the base of a mountain and was tasked with rolling a ginormous rock to the summit. Each day, Sisyphus would perform this duty. Exhausted, Sisyphus would fall asleep at the mountaintop. The next morning, he awakened to a boulder at the bottom of the mountain just to do it all over again.

The plight of Sisyphus has been used in countless texts as a cautionary reference to a pointless work task. There’s a different way to look at Sisyphus, however. Albert Camus, the 1957 Nobel laureate for literature, postulated in his 1940 essay, “The Myth of Sisyphus,” that we are looking at Sisyphus from the wrong side up. Camus wrote:

If the descent [Sisyphus waking up at the
bottom of the mountain] is sometimes performed
in sorrow, it can also take place in
joy. The struggle itself toward the heights is
enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy

 Is it possible for Sisyphus to be happy in his labors without the appearance of success?

I would argue that Sisyphus was successful and experienced a daily reward. Every day he was successful in pushing the rock into the highlands. The reward for his labors was reaching a mountaintop with a view that few, if any, had ever seen. When we change our point of view, we can appreciate the summits we’ve reached no matter how repetitive or doleful the labor might seem. If we don’t push a few rocks uphill, there is no chance of seeing anything but the bottom of the mountain.

Consider this …

1. Where do you feel like you’re “pushing a rock uphill”? What’s the specific circumstance?

2. How might you look at that experience differently? What are the positives in that process and what are the negatives?

3. Taking that new perspective, focus on making the critical changes to the process while being careful not to remove the positive parts of the process.

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Top Performer’s Field Guide)

 

 

Achieve and Celebrate, Repeat

“When eating an elephant, take one bite at a time.” ~ Creighton Abrams

Achieve and Celebrate, Repeat

The ad tagline “I’m going to Disneyland!” has tainted Americans’ view of success. Seeing sports stars winning the big game and exclaiming they’re headed for a well deserved vacation has planted a destructive seed, that seed being the idea that we only are successful when we reach the pinnacle of our craft . This mentality disregards the thousands of successes that had to be chained together that allowed the athlete to win the big game. The hours of practice, making the varsity team in high school, bring drafted, and any other milestones along the way were successes, but we latch on to the big win as being that person’s only success.

If we only celebrate or recognize completion of end goals, we’re doing ourselves and our team members a disservice. In not recognizing the milestones that culminate in the completion of a larger goal, our team members may become discouraged. Our team members might not recognize their contributions to the bigger picture, and their performance can drop of, believing their work doesn’t matter. This is a situation that no leader wants, as that mindset is infectious to other team members.

As you set the standards for any given project, create rewards for plateaus that both motivate and celebrate the individual victories. The spirit of competitiveness can also be invoked by giving higher rewards or praise to individuals who come in with quality work under time and under budgets. It’s up to you as a leader to craft celebratory victory laps for project plateaus. In doing so, the scope of projects will feel smaller, and your team will be more motivated with shorter goals in sight. Remember, the only way to eat an elephant is one bite at a time.

Consider this …

1. What “elephants” do you have in your business right now that need to be broken down into bite-sized projects?

2. Where and how can you use this “Project Plateau” euphemism to create short successes?

3. What process can you establish so that you, your leaders, and your teammates adopt the habit of creating and celebrating short-term milestones that are tied to longer-term success?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide)

The Winner Effect

“We hold the keys to victory within us, but usually cannot find them.”~ John Coates

the winner effect

There’s a tingle that starts at the base of my neck and runs up the length of my head when I win at something. I thought the tingle was unique to me, but there is a reason success feels good. Neuroscientists call it “the winner effect.” When humans win a contest, our bodies release testosterone which gives us a lift in confidence and a slight euphoria. Losing a competition releases cortisol which has the opposite effect of testosterone and results in sadness and an aversion to risk. The release of these hormones happens, on varying levels, when winning or losing at everything from Candy Land to the Olympics.

Here’s the kicker to the winner effect. Long-term exposure to either testosterone or cortisol changes our brain chemistry. Have you ever known anyone that always seems to win? Or, someone who always seems to get the short end of the stick? It turns out that winning and losing streaks aren’t just platitudes. Our bodies are built to keep those streaks alive. Imagine this as our bodies giving us positive or negative reinforcement to winning or losing. Research has shown that over the long haul, winners have a greater chance to win and losers are more likely to lose given the trend of those chemicals in one’s bloodstream.

If you’re at the cortisol end of the spectrum, all is not lost. Remember that winning at anything will help reverse cortisol exposure. Competition isn’t just measured in terms of you beating someone else. Completing a hike or winning a video game gives one the same hormonal release as winning the World Series. When you’re down, complete an activity you know will give you a win. Chain that small achievement with a larger one. Before long, your body’s positive reinforcement of sequenced wins will set you on the road to desiring the next success and science says you’ll have it.

Consider this …

1. Do you routinely experience wins or are you often on the short end of the sick?

2. What patterns exist in your most recent wins? Your most recent losses?

3. How can you create a “progressive” string of wins in order to take control of your brain chemistry?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in Top Performer’s Field Guide)

When Comfort Kills

“A higher rate of urgency does not imply ever-present panic, anxiety, or fear. It means a state in which complacency is virtually absent.” ~ John Kotter

when comfort kills

Military analogies, anecdotes, and terminology prodigiously worm their way into business texts. Rarely do these loosely based parallels address the greatest lesson to be learned from armed conflict—vision. Historical examples abound of generals fighting the last battle in a current conflict. None better exemplify this than the World War One’s British General Douglas Haig’s statement:

I believe that the value of the horse and the opportunity for the horse in the future are likely to be as great as ever. Aeroplanes and tanks are only accessories to the men and the horse.

Commissioned as a cavalry officer, Haig served in the Sudan and Boer War, where cavalry units often turned the tide of a skirmish. Haig’s comfort zone was with cavalry, and there he stayed. During the 1916 Somme Offensive, Haig called for a full-frontal assault. His plan was to have infantry punch a hole in German lines and then send cavalry through the middle to envelop the enemy’s franks. The four-month offensive cost the British 420,000 lives and Haig’s forces captured only six miles of German-held ground.

Holding on to outmoded techniques and failing to envision any tool’s potential is a trap we, like Haig, can easily fall into. The coziness of the familiar is a lullaby that sucks us into the belief that relevance can be co-opted easily by old methods. If you’re satisfied with what was, there’s no need to look for inspiration. You’re already where you want to be. If you’re not at that place, ask yourself with every change how General Haig would view that innovation and do the exact opposite.

 

Consider this …

1. Give deep consideration for a moment or two about the degree of complacency that exists in your life and work right now.

2. In what areas of your work, business, or organization is complacency obvious?

3. Identify three specific areas where complacency is a problem and develop a plan to shake things up a bit.

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in The Innovator’s Field Guide)

Activity Versus Accomplishment

“To accomplish great things, we must dream as well as act.” ~ Anatole France

Activity Versus Accomplishment

The mixed-use building was to be the crowning achievement of Smith Properties. This project represented the first time the form had developed property from the ground up. After securing a prime plot in an up-and-coming neighborhood, Smith Properties demolished the old convenience store that clung to the dirt. The architectural firm the Smith executives picked specialized in trendy mixed-use properties, and their initial renderings for the building were stunning. A modern style fused with art deco would attract high-end residents and businesses. The only thing left to do was secure a few more investors, and within a few months, they would be planning groundbreaking ceremonies.

The partners at Smith decided on a black-tie event to unveil the project to potential investors. The finely crafted guestlist would only be surpassed by the catering and an architectural model of the building. The big night came, and it was time to unveil the model. The mockup had been resting under a satin sheet, and the Smith partners had yet to see it. They wanted a genuine reaction for the media when the model was unveiled. The partnership at Smith properties got a reaction, just not what they had hoped for. The architectural model was a perfect representation of the concept drawings—made of LEGO bricks. 

We could hope there’s no architectural firm that would make a presentation model out of LEGO bricks, but the story illustrates how effort does not always equal achievement. I’m sure someone “worked really hard” at putting the LEGO model together, but their effort was not focused on the desired result. As a leader, we must be vigilant in where our team places their effort. Had the Smith partners merely taken a peek under that satin sheet, it would have saved their entire project.

Consider this …

1. Over the next couple of weeks, keep track of where you are spending your time. Be willing to be honest with yourself about the activities that consume most of your day.

2. Once you do that, compare your activities to the desired accomplishments you are working on. How much time are you spending actually advancing the cause of your goals?

3. What changes do you need to make in your activities in order to focus more effort on achieving your desired accomplishments?

For more, check out The Top Performer’s Field Guide, The Innovator’s Field Guide, or visit www.JeffStandridge.com.

(Originally published in Top Performer’s Field Guide)

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