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Mon 31 May 2021
INDIANAPOLIS (WTHR) - With many people working remotely because of coronavirus, it can be easy to lose connection with coworkers. This lack of connection builds a lack of empathy for what others are going through.

Garrett Mintz, who helps companies break through employee communication barriers, explains how we can keep a company's culture while working remotely.

For Employers:
• Company culture is based on connection and a sense of identity employees have of being a member of the company
• Creating time for employees to have horizontal mentorships can help keep that connection while they are remote
• Horizontal mentorships are when two people are constantly curious, open to the idea of learning from each other and providing wisdom and sharing the obstacles they face on a regular basis, creating empathy and connection between two people

For Employees:
• Carve time to intentionally have conversations with other employees, especially outside of your department, to learn about the obstacles they are facing and share the obstacles you are facing in your work
• Create an agenda and share that agenda with the other person about what you would like to discuss - it can be work-related but shouldn't be task-related
• Keep the conversations going every month - you will feel a greater connection to your company and fulfillment from your work when you have more people who understand the obstacles you are facing and you will have less frustration with other people when you understand the obstacles they are facing.

Original WTHR Article Link
Sun 3 January 2021
Exactly how much confidence should you have in your own leadership abilities? This may seem like an odd question, but try entertaining it for the moment.

Now think of a leader whom you respect. How do you think they would rate their own leadership abilities? 

On a scale of 1-100, where do you think a leader you respect would put her/his leadership abilities?

I find this question fascinating because there is no perfect answer.

If you rate yourself too high, you may seem naïve; how could any great leader believe they have achieved the pinnacle of leadership?

A popular example of this could be the interview with LeBron James from ESPN. As he is retelling the story of him winning the NBA championship with the Cleveland Cavaliers, he pauses in the middle and proclaims himself the greatest basketball player ever. 

But, merely the act of proclaiming yourself as the best at anything beg the question: you certainly are great, but are you really the greatest of all time?  

On the other hand, if somebody rates themselves too low it can cause one to question their competence.

Examples of this are common. It could be any person who doesn’t take the shot because they are afraid to miss and have “wasted” their time.

So with those edge-cases in mind, what do you think is the optimal score?

Fortunately, we at Ambition In Motion have started to study this area in our Executive Horizontal Mentorship program. Here’s what we’ve learned so far.

One measure is a 360-Degree Assessment where we compare self-ratings to how your colleague’s rate your performance across several categories. We asked executives and their colleagues to rate each executive’s leadership abilities and their ability to set proper expectations:

70% of executives rated themselves LOWER at these skills than the ratings from their colleagues. 

On a scale of 1-100, the average executive self-ratings for their own leadership abilities were 59.7/100.

Compared to other components of the 360-Degree Assessment (people management, innovation, communication skills, and financial management), leadership ability had the lowest self-reported score by far, and the most instances of executives rating themselves worse than their colleagues’ perceptions of their leadership abilities.

While I have written another article on my perspective on why these numbers are so low for the executives in our program, for this article, I want to focus on the before and after snapshot of what changed after having an Executive Horizontal Mentor.

After 6 months, the average executive in our program gave themselves a score of 75/100 for their leadership abilities. That’s a 15.3% increase per person over the span of 6 months!

How could this outcome happen? Below are 3 observations from the executives in our program after interviewing them.

The type of executive interested in Horizontal Mentorship

I have spoken with hundreds of executives about participating in our Executive Horizontal Mentorship program. The majority of those conversations don’t end up with them signing up for the program. Whether it be that they don’t have the time, or don’t believe in investing money into a relationship like this, or they already have colleagues they go to for guidance, etc. 

But, the type of executive interested in Horizontal Mentorship realizes they have a gap between where they are and where they want to be. If they didn’t have this gap, the reasons listed above would be more than enough to say no. But instead, they choose to say yes because they are at a position in life where they can be vulnerable. They are vulnerable enough to recognize they want help and humble enough to know that their personal status quo simply isn’t cutting it anymore.

Having this executive mentor, if anything else, gives them the confidence to make decisions that they might not have made previously. The executive mentor helps fill that gap and gives them the confidence to know that they are heading in the right direction.

Which leads to the next point…

The power of learning what you don’t know

One of the biggest insights an executive seeks from a Horizontal Mentor is a new, outside perspective. As leaders, we often get used to the routine of being surrounded by a silo of people that we have grown comfortable with.

Leaders in our Executive Horizontal Mentorship program recognized that the only way for them to grow as a leader is by learning to be okay with being uncomfortable. They recognize that their current network gives them consistent feedback and the only way for them to grow is to get out of their comfort zone and build new, deep, intentional mentor relationships.

Before joining the program, their consciousness of this fact played a role in their low self-score. The knowledge they gained, learning how to know what you don’t know, gave them the confidence and insight to know they are moving in a positive direction.

But part of that learning comes with being challenged, which leads to the next point…

The value of objectivity

Objectivity is the single most important contributor to an executive making big strides in their leadership ability. Having a fellow executive who can share insights and a perspective built from experience will save you immeasurable time and frustration, because they may have gone through similar experiences and can share their wisdom.

Being challenged is part of receiving that objectivity. It isn’t comfortable at first, and it is easy to get defensive immediately. But, after reflection and contemplation, these insights and passed-on knowledge can be the most powerful tools for leaders to improve their abilities. 

Mentors make leaders better by mining the vulnerability and humility they share and turning that into knowledge, confidence, and grit. The process isn’t easy – the more uncomfortable you are the more painful it is – but with pain comes growth. 

Mon 30 November 2020
When work engagement stats are brought up inside a company, employee engagement levels are typically correlated to the impact engagement has on retention, employee productivity, minimized sick days, overall team morale, and how it impacts a company’s culture.

Naturally, when most executives learn about the importance of monitoring and improving engagement they typically invest in these services for their employees. They want to know their team’s engagement score and work on pursuing activities that can improve their engagement.

But what about measuring engagement for the executives?

This may seem like an odd thing to measure for an executive because, as an executive, you would naturally think that your fellow executives aren’t going anywhere (especially if they are the founder or CEO). Furthermore, often their compensation is tied to their performance so they are economically incentivized to perform at their best.

The issue with this train of thought is that it fails to properly understand what engagement is. So much research has used engagement and its downstream effects to show how it impacts the bottom line.  As there are fewer people at the top of an organizational chart and more people lower in the hierarchy, you might think that this is the most cost-effective way to apply engagement because it would directly affect the greatest number of people.

Therefore, it would make sense that when executives learn about this research, they are interested in measuring it for those employees that work for them and are less interested in measuring it for themselves–executives should have no economic reason to rack up sick days, be less productive, or leave. 

But this is simply not the case. Instead, this is a blind spot for executives! I’ll explain more below, but first, let’s take it up a level. 

What is engagement?

Engagement is the culmination of emotional attachment, energy, camaraderie, and work fulfillment employees (including executives!) have at work. Executives are employees too! 

I run an executive Horizontal Mentorship program where I pair two executives from different companies (and typically industries) together for Horizontal Mentorship. If you aren’t familiar, Horizontal Mentorship flips the script on classic mentorship programs by creating mutually beneficial mentor partnerships instead of hierarchical, top-down mentor-mentee relationships. I also run corporate Horizontal Mentor programs where I pair employees within a company together for mentorship.

When I started the first executive mentor program, I made a mistake when sending out the initial assessment. I accidentally forgot to take off the engagement questions that are originally meant for the corporate Horizontal Mentor programs that I run. 

I assumed that executives didn’t need to measure their engagement and that it would just take extra time on their assessment. But, by the time I realized my mistake, it was too late and the executives had taken the assessment in its entirety. They were good sports about the length of the assessment, so I might have been wrong twice in one assessment!  

When it came time to collect the follow-up data after 6 months of their Horizontal Mentor relationship, I figured if we already had the original assessment with the engagement questions, we might as well reassess with those exact same questions.

Here is what I learned:

The average executive improved their engagement score by 5% in 6 months!

This is fascinating for a variety of reasons. First, it shows that work engagement for executives is malleable, just like other employees. When we break down engagement into its components (emotional attachment, energy, camaraderie, and work fulfillment), it is clear how an executive can be impacted by these factors. Now let’s look at each component in a bit more detail. 

Emotional Attachment: We learned that executives, when talking with the same people, doing similar actions, and pursuing similar outcomes – over time – can reduce their emotional attachment to what they are working on.

Energy: We learned that executives need a break as well. When somebody spends too much time working on one thing and talking to the same people, they are eventually going to burn out unless something changes.

Camaraderie: We learned that executives need new, fresh perspectives in their world and if they aren’t seeking that out, they can’t appreciate the relationships they have at their own company.

Work Fulfillment: We learned that work becomes less fulfilling when executives are stuck in their own echo chamber, but becomes more fulfilling when they can learn about what somebody outside of their network (that they can relate to) is going through.

Second, it highlights how easy it is for an executive to get stuck. When first entering this executive Horizontal Mentorship program, their engagement scores weren’t alarming, but clearly there was another gear these executives simply weren’t hitting before their mentor experience.

Third, it demonstrates the need, and importance, for executives to have somebody that can see the forest from the trees and help them get outside of their bubble. Learning another’s perspective clearly sheds light on how executives can improve in their own world and gives them invaluable perspective. 

If you are an executive reading this article, you might be able to relate to some of the points brought up about engagement. You might feel that you are losing the emotional attachment to your work, starting to feel burnt out, appreciating those you work with less, or just not finding your work as fulfilling as you used to. 

If you can relate to any of those common feelings, that is great as that means you can start the process of doing something about it. And if those feelings seem alien to you, then that is normal as well. Most of the executives in our executive Horizontal Mentorship program never mentioned concerns with their engagement at work, but they showed improved engagement scores as well! 

The point is that executives should absolutely be monitoring their own engagement levels. Engagement, for executives, doesn’t typically become a conscious concern until it gets really bad. This is because of all of the economic incentives companies have for performance – e.g. “if I am making more money or creating more value for my shares of stock in the company then I can push through this without any help.” 

Everyone faces ebbs and flows of their engagement at work, and the engagement of executives is especially important because how executives treat their coworkers will ripple outward and impact the engagement of everyone they interact with. 

These engagement levels should be monitored and actions should be taken to enhance engagement because ignoring them only leads to work (and eventually personal life) getting worse.

Mon 5 October 2020
My company has been helping executives learn about their own strengths and weaknesses and there was one number that really stood out to me when I was checking out the data. Seven out of every ten executives in an Executive Mentor Program gave worse ratings to their own leadership ability than the ratings given by their colleagues on leadership as part of their 360-degree assessments.

This statistic fascinates me because it forces me to start questioning what these executives are seeing in themselves that their colleagues apparently miss.   

Is it an act of humility to acknowledge that there is room to grow even though one’s colleagues are satisfied with their leadership?

Is it a perceived lack of ability compared to other leaders they aspire to emulate (something which apparently is missed by their colleagues)?

Or is it a lack of self-confidence, and that more executives feel like they are “faking it” until the one day that they are actually “making it” (while their colleagues don’t know any better)?

To properly answer this, leadership should be defined. By leadership, the study focused on two areas: general perceptions of leadership (e.g. I feel this person is a good leader) and one’s ability to provide clear expectations for those that work with them.

As a society, we seemingly look to the most prominent business leaders as if they have it all together, brimming with confidence, and are unshakable.

We condition ourselves to believe that to be a leader, we must be ever confident and we must have all the answers. For some people, this is an attractive endeavor because our vision of ourselves is the person at the top making the decisions and having the answers – that almost by being at the top of an org chart that we will inherently have the answers (or an alternative solution) because we have control. For others, however, leadership is not an attractive endeavor because of the perceived responsibilities and eyeballs looking to you for what the next step should be; be open to criticism and all the while constantly nervous about whether or not you are choosing the correct path.

While we aren’t sure exactly why 70% of executives underestimate their leadership ability compared to their colleagues’ ratings, we do know that this mismatch in perception exists.

Therefore, there is good news and bad news implied by these findings. The bad news: for those people who are attracted to leadership because they believe that once they are a leader they will have the answers and the confidence; that seems to be an unlikely, though not unheard-of, outcome. Instead, this seems to show that leadership is a never-ending pursuit of improvement. This becomes exacerbated when team members and the people they work with don’t understand their expectations of themselves and the metrics they would like to achieve to be considered a success.

The good news: for those people that avoid leadership because of the perceived responsibility of knowing every next step, being criticized, and nervous about whether or not they are choosing the correct path; most leaders feel this way and the feeling doesn’t stop! Instead, it seems like they just get better at dealing with those feelings.

The reason this is good news is because it shouldn’t hold you back from pursuing opportunities to improve your leadership abilities. This feeling of nervousness when leading a group of people is normal (the data shows it!) and it probably won’t be going away anytime soon. If you lean into the opportunities that present themselves (or seek them out), you can ensure that you are constantly growing and learning.

Speaking of leaning in, Sheryl Sandberg’s story of joining Google embodies the lessons learned from somebody jumping into leadership despite the uncertainty.

Sheryl accepted a role at Google during Google’s infancy. Her prior work experience was in government and she had minimal experience working in technology or startups.

It had taken her almost a year of living in San Francisco to get her first job offer. But persistence paid off and eventually she was receiving multiple offers, one of which was with Google. The other offers were very similar with what she had done in the past and paid her more, but the opportunity for leadership and growth with those other companies wasn’t nearly as high as with Google.

She was torn about what to do. As she was about to reject the Google offer, she met with Eric Schmidt the then CEO of Google who was still part of the interview process (which also gives you an idea of how early this was with Google). She laid out all the offers she had on her spreadsheet and the pros and cons of each offer. The only substantial positive for Google compared to the other offers was the opportunity for growth and leadership.

So why did she choose Google?

It was Eric’s response that convinced her. Eric put his hand over her spreadsheet and said “Don’t be stupid. If somebody offers you a seat on a rocket ship, you don’t ask ‘which seat?’ you just get on.”

She accepted this new challenge of working in a different industry than she was accustomed to, learned to thrive in it, and transitioned that experience into what she is doing now: the Chief Operating Officer of Facebook.

If you are currently a leader, this executive data should hopefully be the inspiration to pursue new experiences and expand your horizons with the hope that it improves your leadership abilities. You don’t need to follow what you think is a “tried and true” method to leadership because there is no “tried and true” method to leadership. Leadership is constantly evolving and 70% of executives feel they are worse leaders compared to their colleagues’ perception of them. 

This is not a guarantee that trying new activities will have some magical power that directly improves your leadership. You might not even realize your strengths and growth as a leader until much later. But, doing nothing new and avoiding challenges is a sure-fire way to stagnate. 

Thu 20 August 2020
As a business leader, you are expected to be many things, but being a mind reader is not in your job description. You are not expected to know what is going on with your people at all times of the day and what’s going on in their heads from day-to-day.

But you are expected to have at least some sense of what your people are going through and how they are generally feeling about it. When you are out of touch and out of sync with your team, you risk losing your best people and not having any clue as to why or how you could have fixed things.

You may think to yourself “I know what is going on with my team and don’t need any help with this.”

The data suggests that this is most likely not true.

My team and I at Ambition In Motion facilitate mentor programs for companies and organizations to help improve their team’s communication. One of the key findings we have discovered is that 68% of engaged employees believe that there are communication barriers between themselves and other employees or departments at work – this issue affects everyone, including senior leaders and managers, and there are even greater reports of communication barriers from disengaged employees.

The point is this: if you are a senior leader at a company or a business owner, look around at the people you work with. Which of them do you think are engaged versus disengaged? The answer may surprise you.

If you think everyone is engaged, the chances are that you are mistaken (unless it is a one-person business). If you know people are disengaged and do nothing about increasing engagement, why risk letting those disengaged feelings grow stronger?

The data from Gallup clearly shows that disengaged employees are half as productive compared to engaged employees. That’s doubling your losses on lost time. Shoot, even if you increase engagement by a small amount, that could lead to a 20% increase in productivity from those that are disengaged.

This article is not meant to point out how blind you are in terms of your people. But it is meant to open your eyes a little bit and showcase one low-cost high-reward action you can begin doing today that will help you avoid your best people leaving.

And by the way, I am not immune to these mistakes either. I had to learn these lessons the hard way.

To showcase this, I will share the story of the first full-time hire I made. The first full-time hire I made was a brilliant developer who was getting his PhD in complex systems. He was the president of the technology entrepreneurship club at his university, and he and I had a prior relationship before I hired him. He also came highly recommended by multiple professors and previous employers. In short, he was a fantastic addition to the team. 

He also told me that he was leaving his PhD program because he didn’t like his advisor and wanted to join a startup (like Ambition In Motion).

The hire seemed like a perfect fit and when we first started, we made some incredible progress on our technology.  

Things were going smoothly until about 6 months in. I was noticing that he was getting less work done, so I asked him about it. He acknowledged my request and said that he would improve and so I took his word at face value instead of digging deeper. 

What he didn’t tell me was that he didn’t actually end up leaving his PhD program. He had a change of heart and didn’t want to let me down by telling me. So he held it back thinking that he could manage both at the same time.  

Eventually, we had a discussion and he told me. Fortunately, he recommended a friend that was helping with the code and we brought him on to pick up my original developer’s lost production.

My issue was that I had no idea what was going on with my lead developer. I initially felt betrayed; it just hurt a bit knowing that he didn’t feel comfortable sharing this big decision with me. If you are a seasoned executive, you might think that it was naive of me to not require a formal letter indicating he had left his PhD program. That might have alleviated that issue, but it also would have completely warped the trust we were developing at the beginning of the relationship. And more likely than not, another issue would have come up down the line and a similar result would have occurred.

I eventually realized it was my fault. Not that I didn’t ask my original developer for a formal letter declaring he was fully on-board, but that I never asked about him and what was going on with his world. And because I didn’t ask about him, we had fewer opportunities for him to dig deeper with me. We can point fingers and try to allocate responsibility all we want, but we can only control our own actions here and I should have done more.

After facilitating thousands of mentoring relationships, I have learned that the key to building trust is vulnerability and I believe that this holds true in work relationships as well.

When I was onboarding this new developer, I decided to do something different. At the end of all of our weekly one-on-one meetings, I schedule 10 minutes for vulnerability where both of us share something that is making us feel vulnerable that week. 

The result: we have been working together for over 2.5 years and have an incredible relationship. As a startup, we have made huge pivots, performed massive rewrites on our code, adapted our business model, and overall have really gone through some stressful situations. But, in the end, I still feel extremely in-tune with what is going on with his world and I think he feels extremely in-tune with what is going on with mine. Oh, and on a quick final note, we’ve never met in-person. 

I schedule these vulnerability exercises with everyone on my team during our one on one meetings, and so far, I haven’t had anyone quit since I started doing them (knock on wood!). However, I have had many hard conversations with people on my team and helped brainstorm solutions for tough problems so my team can live the life they want to live while also getting the work they need to get done accomplished. 

Prior to scheduling these vulnerability exercises, I rarely had these kinds of hard conversations. And that led to everyone on my team pretty much just telling me what they thought I wanted to hear. That works right up until they quit and I was left questioning what went wrong.

I am not saying I know everything about managing people, but I can definitely say that scheduling time for vulnerability in one on one meetings has had a massive impact on retention and productivity of my team. 

You may think to yourself that this can’t scale. And for you, it can’t. But if you integrate this technique across your whole team during their own meetings, it absolutely can. You can facilitate horizontal mentoring relationships between your employees and they can practice this technique in their one on one meetings. However, for this to happen, you must set the tone at the top and be willing to be vulnerable yourself.

Overall, if you want to avoid your best people leaving, be vulnerable with them and encourage them to be vulnerable with you. If you don’t know what’s going on with your team, you are missing opportunities to build deep, meaningful, and productive relationships.

Wed 19 August 2020
When I met with my mentor this month, we talked a lot about changing focus. We discussed our career aspirations, our current workload, and our personal endeavors as well. In each one, though, change was the major factor.

We discussed changing careers, both past and future planned shifts. Sometimes you change careers because you are tired of doing the same old thing and sometimes it’s because you have a passion for something new. Regardless of why you’re changing, you can always take skills from your past roles with you. No job is really a waste of time, as long as you learned something new or learned something about yourself. Sometimes it takes a change of scenery to see that though.

Change can also come in the form of quickly shifting focus during your day-to-day work. Some days, I find myself deep in the middle of a project and then a major HR issue comes up that I have to deal with on the spot. It can be jarring to have to switch back and forth between priorities quickly, but exercising that muscle is one of the most valuable things I’ve learned in my professional career. Both my mentor and I have recently had to deal with this often. It’s reassuring to understand that everyone has ongoing projects and sometimes you just have to stop and fight fires. If you take a moment to regroup and reassess your priorities after the urgent task is completed, you’ll be in much better shape to continue your project work.

Changing focus can sometimes seem like a waste of time or a failed effort as well. We recently discussed that, at times, we have projects that just get dropped altogether. When that happens, it can be pretty devastating when you’ve put notable effort into something and then it comes to nothing. At the very least, it’s annoying. Projects get laid by the wayside for many reasons - management changing priorities, personal priorities changing, environmental changes -  sometimes a project is just deemed infeasible or unviable after extensive research. There’s always something to be taken from a dropped project though. I always learn new skills, or sharpen old ones and that’s the main personal reason for most any project anyway. In addition to changing focus externally, focusing on lessons and skills learned is just as valuable as anything.
Mon 17 August 2020
I am in a mentoring relationship with another CEO who has been having some people issues at this company. The focus of our most recent conversation was how to handle these types of situations without harming company culture and morale.

The issue he is focused on right now is with his controller (or lead accountant). His controller is a really nice guy, everybody loves him, and from a company culture perspective, he brings positivity to the workplace. But, he just isn’t getting his work done on time, and he is often a bottle-neck for the entire company. 

My CEO mentor recognizes this and doesn’t know what to do. He doesn’t want to fire him because people genuinely like him and he has positive attributes that make the work environment rewarding. But he can’t let the whole company be hamstrung because of one person’s delayed work.

3 weeks earlier, this CEO mentor of mine had a similar issue with a couple of his salespeople. They were nice employees and people liked them, but they also weren’t getting the job done. In that situation, the CEO essentially gave his salespeople an ultimatum: “If you don’t increase your performance, we are going to have to move in a different direction.”

The result…both salespeople took his suggestion, moved in a different direction, and left with a sour taste in their mouth of their working experience.

It didn’t stop there either. Additional costs for the company and my CEO mentor were significant because he now needed to recruit, hire, and train 2 new salespeople, all the while losing out on the sales from the 2 former employees. This all set him back on accomplishing other business goals that he set his company.

The CEO decided that he wanted a different outcome with his controller. My mentor realized that the ideal outcome would be to transition him to a different role without the employee taking this as a personal affront.

Neither he nor I knew if that could be possible, but my CEO mentor knew there had to be a different, and better, strategy than the “my way or the highway” approach.

One thing that he brought up to me in our conversation was Marshall Rosenberg’s idea of Nonviolent Communication.

Nonviolent Communication is a series of steps that help de-escalate a potentially contentious situation by stating the facts, removing emotional generalizations (e.g. because I hate when you do that, or because it wasn’t fair for me), and provides a clear, tangible next step that is ideally reasonable and accepted.

The steps to nonviolent communication are: observation, feeling, need, and request.

Observation is an unequivocal fact that can’t be disagreed with. When conveying the observation, there shouldn’t be a positive or negative tone in the voice of the person stating the observation. It is merely a statement of fact.

Feeling is the feeling that the person initiating Nonviolent Communication is feeling. This is ONLY THE FEELING. Anything else that comes with the feeling is irrelevant. Feelings include: mad, sad, angry, frustrated, and anxious. Avoid insults and anything that starts with “I think”. Also, it can be easy to fall into the trap of mistaking insults for feelings (e.g., “You do this on purpose to be a jerk”). 

Need is a need that everyone can agree to. A need is not “I need you to do xyz things”. A need is a higher level notion that is aspirational and is something that EVERYONE can work towards. It holds the person conveying Nonviolent Communication, the person receiving it, and anyone else involved accountable to this need. An example could include “my need is a work environment where people are respected, they get their work done, and they can find joy in the workplace.” Most people can agree that they would consider this a need for their work environment. 

Request is a specific, tangible, ideally measurable request that is reasonably achievable. If it is vague, it will be difficult to know if it was achieved and if it is unreasonable, it will create resentment. A bad example of a request would be “my request is that you never interrupt me again.” This is a bad example because it requests for somebody to change actions instantaneously and without margin for error. An employee might develop some minor habit of inadvertently interrupting you but not realize it frustrates you so much. So, when you finally decide to bring it up to them and ask (order!) them to never do it again, you are presenting an unrealistic request and not seeking to understand the person. A better request would be:

“My request is that when we have a conversation, you try practicing reflective listening, meaning that when we have a conversation, you take a pause after I am done speaking to reflect on what I just said before jumping in with what you are going to say. I recognize that this might take time to practice and implement, but my request is that you give it a chance and are intentional about practicing it in conversations.”

You could potentially add in a specific number of times that would be acceptable for that person to interrupt you to be measurable, but that may sound condescending for this situation. The key difference is that the request is much more likely to be adopted than the original bad example. By practicing Nonviolent Communication and working with the person, you are working together to find the best solution for all parties.

So, my CEO mentor decided to apply Nonviolent Communication to his situation with his controller to see if it might be able to achieve his desired goal of getting him to work on a different task while showing him respect and maintaining his dignity.

His observation: The accounting work that was due on June 20th came in on July 1st. This has happened each of the past 3 months, and we have had several conversations about the importance of timely accounting work over the past 3 months.

His feelings: He feels frustrated and anxious. 

His need: A work environment where people are respected, they get their work done, and they can find joy in the workplace.

His request: “Would you be open to helping onboard a new controller over the next 3 weeks, and then transitioning your work to the marketing department afterwards?”

The result…his controller was open to it! The CEO mentor of mine may not have perfectly implemented the keys to Nonviolent Communication, but he did them well enough to achieve his desired goal. This part is important: you won’t get it perfect on your first try. But practice makes perfect, and even imperfect execution can help you solve your people problems. 

His controller, now marketing assistant, helped onboard the new controller, and because he was so well-liked by others at the company, his transition to marketing was smooth. So far, he is getting his work done on time and finding a greater passion for his work in marketing compared to accounting.

As business leaders, we may scoff at the idea of showing emotion at work and sharing our feelings. And if we do, they may come out as massive generalizations that can be hurtful and negative to culture. In this example, this CEO mentor of mine showed emotion, vulnerability, and subsequently leadership and was able to accomplish his goals and his company goals. 

Wed 12 August 2020
Over the course of my career, there has been an increasing focus on making work “easier”.  This initiative has taken many forms over the years, ranging from process improvements and documentation, to streamlining meetings, to improved electronic platforms, etc.  As I began to get involved with the Ambition in Motion program, my personal workload began to increase as well, and more than ever the need for an “easy” application was essential.

 I can comfortably say that this program is very easy, with a clearly defined structure, easy to follow instructions, and continued touchpoints and follow-up from the program administrators.  In addition to the regular Mentorship sessions, there as many other opportunities for personal growth.  I can honestly say that the most difficult portion of this program is personally finding the time to take full advantage of what is offered.  I am very excited to see how this continues to grow and evolve.



Wed 5 August 2020
This week I had my second meeting with my Peer Mentor and it was another good one.   Each time we meet Garrett has a recommended agenda that ensures each meeting will be productive and avoids the “So, what do you want to talk about today” condition that can be stifling.  However, he always gives us permission to deviate from “the script” and go wherever the moment takes us. The topic was “Collaboration” and this time we stuck to the agenda.  We were asked to share the biggest challenge facing us currently, but that wasn’t all.  We were supposed to ask our mentor to assist us with the challenge – not just give advice on how to deal with it.  

When I first read that I thought, “Since my biggest challenge is something I need to do at/for work and Mike can’t work on that, I better pick some other challenge that he can help with.”   Then, when I shared this thought with Garrett he pushed back.  “Why limit Mike and possibly miss a great opportunity for him to collaborate with you?”   That’s when I realized that this sort of pre-qualifying others for their help is something that I do a lot.   How many times at work, at home, at church, or elsewhere have I faced a situation that I could use some help but I tell myself, “(that person) can’t help you with that”, so I never ask.   Even when that person is there to help!   

I don’t know if this is function of pride (I don’t really need the help), or trying to save the other person from having to say, “Sorry, I can’t help with that”, or being afraid that they may reject me and refuse to help.   Whatever it is, I’m sure that it has cost me many many hours and dollars trying to struggle on my own.  Further, how many people have I denied the opportunity to be helpful to me.  When I do that it is truly lose-lose. 

After this session, I’ve decided that I would be more open with those around me who may have abilities that I’m unaware of that would be perfect for my present challenge.   Who is in your circle that would be happy to help you in ways that you didn’t even know they could?

Mon 3 August 2020
As a business, you must be constantly setting new goals and working towards accomplishing your current goals. The goals you aim for need to be big enough to ensure consistent growth while remaining tangible, realistic, and achievable.  

But goals also need to be flexible. Managing how your team goes about accomplishing those goals requires you to be open to suggestions and improvements or else risk falling behind the pack. 

Oftentimes, there will be an aspirational quantifiable goal that your team is working towards accomplishing. For example, reaching $1 million in annual revenue. While there are many different ways you can accomplish this goal, the conventional wisdom is usually to follow the same methods that lead you here and keep progressing along the same path towards that goal.

Sometimes, the plans that got you here are not the plans that will lead you to your ultimate goal. Let’s continue with the quantity goal of achieving $1 million in revenue. Now let’s say you are collecting monthly payments on your product or service, and your sales team is growing sales at 10% month-over-month: it looks like you are well on your way! But you might be missing crucial factors. You might not notice until it’s too late that your product isn’t high enough quality to retain those clients and now you are losing 20% of clients after three months. Now you are stuck in a situation that is essentially just pouring water to a leaky bucket.

The cost to make the quality adjustments might be really expensive…but the cost of consistently losing business is usually going to be worse. If there aren’t quality controls in place, it’s going to make achieving your $1 million in revenue goal harder and make the next important milestone even more difficult to achieve if you don’t change your things up. 

Word spreads quickly and first impressions are incredibly important! If word spreads that your quality is inconsistent, you will saturate the market with a negative reputation and eventually find it very difficult to garner new customers.

Essentially, the cost of consistently putting out a bad product becomes more and more expensive as word spreads. This cost to reputation quickly grows to be significantly greater than the cost of doing nothing.

A story that does a great job of conveying this is the story of Pixar Animation Studios and the story of Toy Story 2. In the 1980’s, Steve Jobs (after getting let go by the board of Apple) bought Pixar from Lucas Film, and in the early 1990’s the Walt Disney Company hired Pixar to make 1 full-length, completely computer-animated movie.

At the time, there had never been a full-length completely computer animated movie. It had never been done. Pixar had done shorts before (and actually won an Oscar in 1988 for Tin Toy), but they had never made a full-length movie before. The agreement was that the Walt Disney Company would pay for the entire cost of producing the film but would receive 100% of the royalties. 

Steve Jobs and the Pixar management team knew that this was not necessarily the greatest deal for them. They knew that if the movie was a hit and Disney kept all of the royalties, they would have Pixar hamstrung and forced into this type of deal for the future because their profit on this deal was minimal.

Therefore, right before Pixar’s first movie with Disney went live to theaters, they made a bold move. They decided to have an Initial Public Offering (IPO). This was risky because if their first movie flopped, the company would be out of business. But, if it was a success, they knew Disney would come back to them to make more films and the additional funds from IPO would allow them to cover their half of the production cost and take a half of the royalties. 

Their first movie: Toy Story. 

What else needs to be said? But just in case you need a refresher: Toy Story was a smash success and won an Oscar in 1995.

The Walt Disney Company agreed to a deal to cover half of the production cost for two more movies and split the royalties with Pixar. This was still a relatively risky spot for Pixar because if any of these movies flopped, they would be on the hook for it. 

Pixar’s next movie was A Bug’s Life. Not only was it another great box office success and instant classic, but the production of the film went off without a hitch. 

Their second movie was Toy Story 2, and the production of the much-anticipated sequel was not nearly as smooth as A Bug’s Life or even the original Toy Story. In fact, Toy Story 2 almost ended up never being released…twice! 

Because Pixar was a young and quickly growing company, they hadn’t really established the type of quality protocol and procedures necessary when making films. Like most startups, they were flying by the seat of their pants. 

Since they were making A Bug’s Life and Toy Story 2 at the same time, they had to split their teams to focus on each respective movie and hired an outside film director to direct Toy Story 2. 

The Pixar team was so focused on releasing A Bug’s Life that they gave essentially free reign to this new director to direct Toy Story 2. By the time Toy Story 2 was “ready” for a final review, Pixar encountered a huge problem: the movie just wasn’t very good. It simply wasn’t emotionally gripping or well-put together. 

The Pixar team had to make a choice: keep this sub-par film that they invested millions of dollars into, or scrap the entire film and start over (and risk upsetting everyone that worked on the original Toy Story 2).

The short-term risk was losing the millions of dollars they spent producing the film. The long-term risk was losing the Walt Disney Company as a financial and commercial partner, leaving them having to go off on their own and figure out distribution channels, promotion, and everything else that Disney brought to the table that made their involvement so valuable.

So, Pixar decided to pivot. They scrapped the entire first draft of the movie (losing millions of dollars) and started over. 

Production was going well: great story, great characters, great emotion. But, right before Toy Story 2 (the second version) was ready to be released, something happened. The developers at Pixar were working on improving some small visual features and that involved writing over the code in some folder. But, they used the wrong command: ask a programmer and they will let you know that this is easy to do! So, when they went to delete and replace the folder, the command instead started deleting every file it encountered. And…a developer accidentally entered that command. After a moment, they started seeing files disappearing and realized what was happening.

Everything was deleted. Woody, Buzz, Mr. Potatohead, everything! They scrapped millions of dollars on the first movie and then accidentally deleted the entire second go-around of this movie. Normally, this wouldn’t be an issue. Everyone knows to backup important work, right? Except the backups were untested, and failed when they tried to retrieve their work. All seemed lost. 

However, they had a lifeline. One of their employees who was pregnant was granted the opportunity to work from home (back when working from home wasn’t the norm). Every week, she would back up the entire movie on her home hard drive. After they realized this, they dashed to her house to find out whether or not their entire project was truly gone. 

The Pixar team drove to her house, picked up her hard drive and…it was all there! 

The movie released and was a total success and laid the groundwork for Pixar to create: Monsters Inc., The Incredibles, Finding Nemo, and so many other movies that became instant classics.

Pixar had an original goal: to make 2 movies with Disney. They could have stuck to the original version of Toy Story 2, but that could have led to lost business and opportunities down the line (the equivalent of a leaky bucket). 

Pixar chose to pivot in the face of adversity for the opportunity to set themselves up in the long-term.

They created the Brain Trust which is a quality control team that meets with directors weekly to ensure that the movies they are directing are on track and quality.

They also implemented technical systems that prevented employees from losing everything in their system, and ensuring that their work is backed up, that their backups are backed up, and that those are backed up too! 

Technically, Pixar didn’t need to make either of those pivots to make 2 movies. But to make 2 high quality movies that would sustain the success of their business for years to come, these pivots were absolutely necessary.

The point: having goals is a great first step. But to maintain your success, you are going to need to be vulnerable enough to acknowledge that what you are doing now isn’t perfect and will be improved. There are some activities that may not directly drive your outcome in the short-term, but will absolutely lead you to success over the long term. Knowing when, how, and just being open to pivoting is critical to your success as a leader and as a company.

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