Is there a risk in the Truth

This is what Jeff Nischwitz sent out in his newsletter a few days ago and I got to thinking about it out on our deck this morning.  I think this is a good point to remember.  So here is what he said;

“Most people do not tell you the truth. They tell you the truth they believe you want to hear or the truth they think you can handle. More important, they tell you the truth as much as they are willing to risk the relationship. Telling the truth always involves a risk. The best way to create more open and honest relationships where you can hear the truth is by first being willing to share your truth with others. There is no universal truth, but your willingness to trust the relationship with the truth will deepen and sharpen your relationships.” Jeff Nischwitz

Hmm and if the truth causes hurt?

Always the million dollar question and certainly worthy of consideration.  I think it is a fine balance.  The ultimate goal for me would be joy, and that is sometimes hard to promote if you do not know what is going on.  I think a lot of hurt comes from our judgment of others, and I do not include that in my truth bucket.  First of all we should not be focused on judging others to begin with.  I am more focused on internal truths that we may be fearful to share. These internal truths I do not see as causing hurt but providing an opportunity, if shared.

I would be violating my values if I shared my judgments’ of how someone looks or acts. Over the years, I have learned that I am usually wrong anyway.  I would also be preventing an opportunity to find joy if I refused to share my internal fears. Over the years, I have learned that most of my fears are not well founded.  So I think what Jeff is saying is that we need to foster trust if we want to find joy.  The most hurt would be caused by someone that laughed at our fear or someone that ignored our fear. That is a risk we accept by sharing. The reward would be increasing our joy and a stronger relationship. If the trust is there, you will take the risk.

Well that is my thoughts this morning. Time for another cup of coffee. You can find Jeff’s blog at http://www.nischwitzgroup.com/blog/

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Time Management

By Dave Favor, The Wise OwlYour life is a sequence of big and small choices and decisions. Successful people know what they want, and they focus on how to get it. So, knowing what you want would seem to be important to time management. Goal setting is hard because you have to be able to see what you want. You have to see where you want to be in 6 months or a year from now. The problem is, life gets in the way.  You can develop this beautiful vision of the future and a set of goals to realize that vision only to discover life.  Life is not static and sometimes everything can change in seconds.

Making decisions is no picnic either. Almost any decision involves some conflicts. The difficult part is to pick one solution where the positive will outweigh the negative. Avoiding decisions often seems easier, and I see many people that have made that choice. Making decisions and accepting the consequences is the only way to stay in control of your time, your success, and your life.

OK, how can you do better in time management when it is so difficult? First of all I recommend being honest. Not being honest about what you want raises so many conflicts. For example, you decide that you want to spend time with your child after work but you run out of time doing work. Your goal was not to spend time with your child, it was to be successful at work.  Now you waste time rationalizing why you chose to work.  Alternatively, worse than that, you do not take any responsibility and say I “HAD” to work.  Not making any decision or not taking responsibility for those you do make puts the blame on others.  As long as it is not your responsibility you will never solve this problem.

My next recommendation is to make decisions based on what you want, not what someone else wants. To do that you have to have a good understanding of what your vision is, and you have to believe in it.  Many of the people I meet have no long term vision. Many people have no idea what they want to do for the day. They are totally interrupt driven and give up control.

My third recommendation is to be flexible enough to accept what life throws at you. You need to be realistic and sometimes the rules change.

All the theory is great, but I also know that we need to be practical about all this.  Over the years, I have learned that I do better when I set aside times for certain goals to limit the amount of conflict.  So I may decide that my time at the office is defined and during that time my goal is to be successful at work. I then define a period to be focused on my child.  Now I just need to decide if I am going to violate my defined times. Still a conflict at times however during the defined times I am focused.

Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc.  He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working.  Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.

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Just Ask Why

By Dave Favor, The Wise OwlBack in my corporate days I learned to ask “Why” three to five times in order to discover the root cause of a problem.  As I recall, this technique was originally developed by the Toyota Motor Corporation during for their manufacturing division.  So, when a law firm said they had trouble with staff not getting mail out, I suggested they ask why.  In practice, you should ask why until you discover the failing process.

The first problem was a focus on who failed.  It is rarely a who that we are looking for; it is almost always a process or a policy.  So I introduced the idea that people do not fail; processes do.  That was amended to be process or policy.  Once we started to focus on processes, we started to make progress understanding the root cause. Here is an example of how it went.

Q: Why didn’t you get the contract mailed?

A: I did not get the contract printed on time.

Q: Why didn’t you get the contract printed on time?

A: The printer was out of paper.

Q: Why was the printer out of paper?

A: Nobody is assigned to load paper.

Q: Why was nobody assigned to load paper?

A: There is no job position or process to maintain the printer

Now we can have all kinds of discussions about who should have done what but the bottom line was that nobody was assigned the task.  As soon as the person sitting next to the printer was assigned the task to make sure the printer was working, the people upstairs got faster printing.

Sometimes what you discover is just common sense and the solution is simple.  Since we started the “just ask why” campaign many of the processes have been updated and improved.  Another interesting result was that finger pointing to individuals stopped.  Try it sometime the next time the results you get are not what you expected.

Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc.  He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working.  Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.

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Introduction to Strategic Planning

By Dave Favor, The Wise Owl

We toss around many terms, and before we get too deep into strategic planning it would be beneficial to let you know my definition of these terms.

  • Core values are the fundamental beliefs of a person or organization. The core values are the guiding principles that dictate behavior and action.
  • Value statements are grounded in values and define how people want to behave with each other and in the organization.
  • Vision is a statement of what the organization wants to become. The vision should resonate with all members of the organization and help them feel proud, excited, and part of something much bigger than themselves. A vision should stretch the organization’s capabilities and image of itself. It gives shape and direction to the organization’s future.
  • Mission/Purpose is a precise description of what an organization does. It should describe the business the organization is in. It is a definition of “why” the organization exists currently. Each member of an organization should be able to express this mission verbally.
  • Strategies are the broadly defined key approaches the organization will use to accomplish its mission and drive toward the vision.

A strategic plan defines and documents these terms for the organization. The purpose of a strategic plan is to gather your thoughts and put a stake in the ground.  From the strategic plan, we will develop the business, marketing, technology and other detailed plans needed to build the business.  The strategic plan also provides a starting point to build your work culture.

Without a strategic plan, there is a tendency to react to the problem of the day.  Over time, you get lost and discover you are not making any progress.  You tend to get spread too thin trying to react to everything.  A strategic plan serves to get you back on track and focused on your goal.

A good exercise we do to get back on your path is to figure out where you are now and do a SWOT analysis.  OK, another new term.  A SWOT is an evaluation of the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats involved in a business venture.  After the SWOT analysis, you have some idea of what you need to address and what you already have.  Now using your core values, vision and mission that you defined as guidelines, develop your strategies.  You now have a strategic plan.

None of these things have to be fancy, but you should have them documented.  Now you can write your detailed plans, and they will be aligned with a common strategic plan. Once you have the plan, don’t ignore it. I have walked into businesses where the business plan does not reflect the marketing plan, and neither are related to the strategic plan.  My father would say: the right hand has no idea what the left hand is doing!

Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc.  He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working.  Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.

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It’s Just a Suggestion

By Dave Favor, The Wise Owl

You may have had this conversation with your kids.  This morning I was told that the speed limit was just a suggestion.  That peaked my interest.  So I said that the speed limit was the law that stated the maximum or minimum speed at which a motor vehicle may operate on public roads, and was not a suggestion. That resulted in a discussion of what a law was. Using my best corporate voice, I said a law is a binding custom or practice of a community:  a rule of conduct or action formally recognized as binding or enforced by a controlling authority.  You can imagine how that was received. OK, so far.  They then asked, what is a suggestion?  Well in its literal sense, this word signifies to inform.  So that still does not preclude following the speed limit. So far, we have established that the speed limit is binding, and you have been informed of it.  Well, not really.  I may have established that, but I am not sure my audience bought it.

Ever wonder why they work so hard to justify not following a rule?  What kind of rules do you have in your business that may not be followed?  Do you have employees working hard to justify why they should not follow that rule or that process?  I visited a law firm and was told by a paralegal that this Firm was different.  When I asked what that meant, I was told that they were so unique that an arbitrary rule could not apply to them.   The particular offensive rule was that the settlement was to be put in a red folder so that the attorney could spot it when the client arrived. I was not sure why their uniqueness canceled this rule.

I found many examples like this. I created a new rule just for fun; all rules would be followed until such time that they were replaced, updated or canceled. In hindsight, I am not sure why I thought this rule would be received any differently than the existing rules. The next day was a little stressful as I attempted to enforce all documented rules. Once they figured out that there were no exceptions, things settled down.   Eventually, some of the rules and processes were improved and updated. Some were even removed.

What was missing, when I started this journey, was consistent enforcement of the processes and policies of the business? Once the staff determined that the rules were real, they followed them.  As the processes and rules were used more often, they were improved, kind of a win – win.

Now I do not know what to tell you about your kids.  First of all, my kid was 38 years old. I do know a little about business processes and just having the process or policy documented is not enough.  Your staff wants to see consistent enforcement of the rules before they will trust them.

Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc.  He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working.  Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.

 

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My Truth and Your Truth

By Dave Favor, The Wise OwlI was watching a movie on television that I downloaded from one of the on-demand sites.  This movie had three prices depending on the level of definition, and I chose High Definition.  I mentioned to someone that the high definition cost $4.99.  They insisted that it cost $6.99.  We were getting into a discussion when I decided to ask a few questions. Well, it turns out that we were both right.  Depending on what service I used, the cost was different.

How many times does this happen in your business?  Depending on a person’s point of reference their understanding may be different.  Kind of like your truth is not my truth, but both are right. A better question may be, how many times have you wasted time in a heated discussion when both answers were right?  Sometimes a little flexibility can save much time. In a business, this is an easy discussion to avoid by just stating that the boss wins.  However, does the boss really win?

Many times I ask people do you want to win the battle and lose the war?  Alternatively, perhaps walk away from a battle but win the war.   You will never win either if you cannot first understand someone else’s perception of the truth or at least understand that perceptions differ.

Dealing with people in business is like dealing with people in personal relationships.  You have to understand their upbringing, environment, and experience and compare it to yours.  Each forms a perception of what is right.  You wrap it in knowledge and give yourself a competitive edge in an argument.  That seems like so much work.  My question to you is, what is your goal; prove you are right or win the war?

One of the things we teach in client/customer relationship marketing is that frankly the customer or client is probably always right.  That upset or angry person is truly telling you what they believe from their perception of an event.  That is why it is fruitless to engage in a debate over the cause or effect of the issue.  You may prove your point and refuse to concede your position thus winning the argument, but your business just lost the war. What do you gain by engaging in the debate?  You probably will not change their mind, and it simply frustrates you.   If you want to state your position, do so but quit at that point.   Further engagement only creates ill will.

What is wrong with simply saying “I see your point.”   Doesn’t mean you agree. It does not mean you are wrong. What if you do not see their point?  Frankly then don’t say anything. Move on.

Another way of thinking about the truth is to realize in this world there is your truth, my truth and probably somewhere in between is the real truth.  How you view something is based on many things including your upbringing, cultural background, knowledge, and experiences.

 

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Is it a Need?

By Dave Favor, The Wise OwlSomeone asks you, ‘is that a want or a need?’ Good question, but the answer may not be that simple. A need is something that is necessary, let’s say to live a healthy life. My question is, who decided that it was necessary? I would suggest that a need (other than water, food and basic shelter) is just a high priority want. Your needs will create wants, and your wants will create more needs. In order to identify true needs, you have to understand your purpose, vision or mission.

It does not make any difference if you are looking at your life or your business; you have to understand your purpose to understand your needs. We (Cheryl and I) were doing a seminar when she said that my desire for a motorhome was clearly a want and not a need. The only way she can make a statement like that is if she knows what my vision or purpose is. That is the problem with making judgments about the needs of others. If you do not have a clearly defined purpose, then you also have that problem.

As long as you have a strategic plan for your business that defines your vision (or purpose) you can define your needs. Here is an example: you define the vision for your law firm to be, “We provide legal services to our clients with compassion and pride.” If you are a small business, your vision might be, “We will provide over the top service to our customers.” Now you decide you need a new fancy building to realize that vision. Is this a want or a need? Well, based on your vision, this is probably a want.

This brings up an interesting thought – The vaguer your purpose is, the more difficult it is to identify if you have a want or a need. To better understand your needs you must have a detailed understanding of your vision. There are several ways to accomplish that detail for a business. For example, you can do a gap or SWOT analysis. This year we will talk a lot about both. Before you buy that fancy case management system, new building or a company car, do some strategic planning.

You can see how this may happen in a business. Look at your relationships, and you will see that the same thing can happen. If you do not agree on your purpose or vision, your partner or family will not buy into your stated needs. There is another way to look at this. Turn that analysis around and look at it. Let’s say that your partner is always bringing up something that you are convinced is a want, and even perhaps a low priority want. Why is your partner doing this? Well, it is likely that this is a true need for your partner based on their vision. The discrepancy is you do not understand or believe in the vision that is driving this need. This is a common cause for partnerships and businesses failing.

Whose ‘want’ and whose ‘need’ is based on whose vision? Yours or someone elses? When everyone is aligned with a vision, the question and its answer becomes amazingly simple.

Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc. He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working; Dave is truly the Wisest of Owls. Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.

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When is a Plan a Plan

 

By Dave Favor, The Wise Owl

I was talking to my partner about cleaning the leaves out of our garden.  She spelled out several steps to accomplish this goal; rack the leaves, mulch the leaves, fertilize the plants, and spread the mulched leaves. I thought that this was a good plan.  She said if only we had a plan. I was a little puzzled, so I added more detail to the plan.  Now we had; use the hand rack to rack up the leaves, mulch with the electric mulcher, fertilize using a general purpose fertilizer and spread the mulched leaves after being bagged up.  Now we had a detailed plan, and she said if only we had a plan!

OK, this was very puzzling.  I asked her why she thought we did not have a plan. She said, what would it look like when we are done?  After some discussion, I realized that she was focused on the vision while I was focused on the execution.  Both are needed to have a good plan.

I suspect that this happens at work as well.  There are employees that are focused on the big picture or a visual representation of the result.  These people have very little awareness of the details or what it takes to create the result.   There are other employees that are focused on the execution but do not have a good visualization of the result.  Between the two of them they have a good understanding of what needs to be done.

If you want a good strategic plan for our business, make sure that you accommodate both sides of your process. You need a creative person to develop the vision and a detailed person to develop the execution plan. Both skills are needed, and both skills are equally important.

There have been many times when we were getting ready for our business trips when I was washing the windows and getting fuel when she would ask: What are you doing?  Then I would get in the car and ask: Where are we going? If you want to be on the “A Team” you have to love it when a plan comes together.

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I Am Not Your Enemy

By Dave Favor, The Wise Owl

Now and then some pattern strikes me as interesting. I had been talking with several people about politics, and while I know that is always dangerous, I tended to ignore the warning signs and kept charging down this road. I began to notice a trend from people that were very emotional about a candidate or an event, even though they seldom had any noticeable basis in fact. I say that only because when I would ask questions, they had no evidence to support their position. I began to realize that people had purely emotional positions. I would be foolish enough to attempt to show reason with evidence to back up my position. This went nowhere and the entrenched position became a solidified fortress of denial. Not only that but I suddenly feel I was the enemy in their attempts to change me and my opinion. While I could have easily moved on I became curious about why this happens.

Let me back up just a bit to explain my thought. If you buy into the emotional intelligence or self-mastery theory that is popular these days, or at least I find it to be popular, then you are in control of the interpretation of the event and the reaction. The self-mastery theory is that an event happens, and we interpret that event based on our beliefs and assign a meaning. That meaning causes us to react. The example we often use in our seminars has two couples receiving an invitation to a community dance. One couple believes that dancing is a sin and has a very negative reaction. The other couple believes that it is a great way to have fun and has a very positive reaction. There is a whole section here on what paradigm they are in, but I am sure you remember that part if you attended any of our seminars. The point here is that one couple creates joy in their life, and one creates fear. We seem to have the ability to shape the world as we wish, yet we constantly fail due to fears and limitations that we put in our brain.

Looking closer at this, if there is no basis in fact and the event itself is just part of your belief system, you are also in control of the event. In other words, there is no invitation, which was the event, to kick off our example above. The event was built into your belief system, and you are searching for evidence of it. Once you find it, you are off and running. Now that seems interesting to me. You have something that is creating a strong emotional reaction in your life that you have total control of. This is great if the result is a great joy, which I believe is a good thing. However, what if it is causing stress, headaches, upset stomachs, or any of the other negative results? Well, the good news is you can prevent it. The bad news is you not only created it, but it is with you always.

I do not think this phenomenon is unique to politics. I have seen this in business as well as life. Have you ever noticed that the same key moment or event will produce different reactions in people? You may become depressed or frustrated while someone else may just laugh it off. Frustrating huh! You should be getting some idea as to why this happens. When someone states an opinion and seems entrenched in the opinion despite attempts to offer a reasonable response, remember you are not the enemy. You simply hear their reaction to the event based on their belief system and environment.

Having learned this, I find myself learning to quit trying to change an entrenched opinion. Once I recognize there is no hope of change with an open and honest discourse on the difference of opinions, I stop and move on. Life seems to be a bit simpler since I have adopted this philosophy. Moreover, my blood pressure seems to be normal again.

Recognize that your opinions are also based on your belief system and the environment. Is that why someone does not see things your way? Perhaps, and it is only a suggestion, you can open your mind and your world, rethinking your opinions, and learn something new.

Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc.  He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working; Dave is truly the Wisest of Owls.  Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.

 

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It’s Not My Fault | Accountability

By Dave Favor, The Wise Owl

The most controversial part of self-mastery is accountability. Life seems to be more fun when you are not accountable for your actions. Any focus on accountability causes such a reaction that I want first to define what I mean. Accountability is the willingness to claim 100% ownership for the results that are a consequence of your actions.

There is an expectation of accountability, which means that someone will hold you answerable for the outcome of your actions or inactions. Accountability is associated with delegated authority and is distinct from responsibility. A person can assign responsibility but cannot give away his/her accountability. There is a difference between responsibility and accountability: responsibility is the obligation to act; accountability is the obligation to answer for an action.

Usually, when I bring this up, people get defensive. I may ask why something was not done or was done and immediately get a lot of excuses. Most of the time, it goes downhill after that.

We can spend a lot of time discussing the meaning of words that would be non-productive. The more experience I have with these concepts, the more I believe that negative thinking and accountability issues are the keys to our level of joy. The next time you feel frustrated or mad, take some time to notice what is driving you.

With all that said, let’s look at a typical scenario. Someone asks you (or you intuitively know) to do something. You promise to do it which develops an expectation. So far, nobody discussed any reasons that could cause you to miss your promise. The day comes when the person with the expectation looks for results. If the results are not there, we are usually not interested in why. This is especially true if nothing is said prior to the delivery time that would suggest the plan was altered. If this happens all the time, trust is lost. Once the trust is lost you will no longer be asked to do anything. You may be fired, excised from the group or just ignored. In any case, nothing good happens.

To be successful, you need to develop the skill to understand and to accommodate anything that would prevent you from missing your implied or promised results. I cautiously bring up the concept of planning. I have had discussions with employees where they get defensive and say something like: surely they did not expect me to do that if it rains (or snows, or whatever). My answer is, yes they did. They understand that it may rain, the car may not start the dog may eat the paper, etc., but expect you to get the job done. Part of getting the job done is building enough experience to understand the need for a contingency plan.

The secret about accountability is, if you are not accountable you cannot fix it. If it is always someone or something else’s fault, you will never fix it. Want to improve or advance in your career? Start off being accountable for everything that happens to you. You will not like it at first, but you will gradually grow as a person. Others, particularly in the business world, will see that you have a value called character. You will be seen as a person of integrity. And with these changes comes wisdom. And with these traits comes advancement in your career and you become a valuable member of the team!

Dave Favor is the President and principal in Catalyst Group, Inc.  He brings to the table over 50 years high-level business and management experience, including time at IBM and as a private consultant to major Fortune 500 companies. Dave’s experience allows him to bring to the table a way of running a business that small business and law firms can strategically leverage. A teacher of self-mastery, leadership, and business principles, he is a believer in value-based living and working; Dave is truly the Wisest of Owls.  Catalyst Group, Inc. is located in Raleigh, North Carolina, and is known for its mentoring of small businesses and law firms.

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