Archive for September, 2010
Had a wonderful time this morning talking with Zane Safrit on his radio show. This is the third time he and I have chatted; the first time was a few years ago, when we spoke about Growing Great Employees. Then we talked about Being Strategic after it was published last year.
Our conversation today was also about Being Strategic; we talked about all the great things that have happened since the book’s hardcover publication. But most important to me, we focused on Zane’s personal curiosity about and interest in the being strategic approach. The thing I most love about talking to Zane is that he’s personally committed to being more strategic in his life and work, and so his questions arise out of his own felt need to understand and apply the model.
In my experience, this is when true learning happens. It’s like eating good food when you’re really hungry: you enjoy it and it nourishes you. And it’s a great experience for both chef and diner.
Thanks, Zane – any time.
Just today we put up an Erika Andersen facebook page. I hope it becomes a great place to have a conversation about work and how to make it better – leadership, management, teaming: building businesses, careers and lives.
You can click on the link above, or ‘like’ our new page by clicking on the facebook icon in the right sidebar. Come join us!
Patrick and I are going to Amsterdam next month for a little mini-vacation. I’ve never visited, and he’s sending me links to interesting, fun things we can do while we’re there.
One of the places that sounds particularly intriguing is the Hortus Botanicus Amsterdam, the Amsterdam Botanical Garden. In reading about it online, I discovered that they consider the coffee plant one of the “crown jewels” of their collection – which piqued my curiosity; coffee would seem to be the most common of plants.
But as it turns out, the first coffee plant in Europe was grown in the Botanical Garden greenhouses, in 1706. Coffee then went to France as a gift to Louis XIV, via France to its colonies in Central and South America, and finally to Brazil – which is today the largest coffee-producing country in the world.
A fascinating story. And then I realized that this is how ideas spread, as well. Someone thinks of something for the first time — using a pulley, conceiving of zero, E=mc² — and it behaves just like a seed. Sometimes it lies fallow, to be brought to life at a later time (European philosophers re-discovering the Greeks); sometimes it takes root in one place and not another. But eventually, if it’s broadly compelling (the idea of personal will), or it seems to be an accurate understanding of an important phenomenon (the law of gravity) it will spread throughout the world.
It took coffee centuries – by ship and horse-drawn cart – to move from Ethiopia to the the Middle East, to Indonesia, to Europe, to South America. Today, on the internet, an idea can spread throughout the world in days.
And depending on the quality of the idea, that can be a great thing, or a very bad thing. For instance, the viral spreading of ideas seems to be making it more difficult for truly repressive regimes to control large populations over long periods of time. But, on the other hand, there’s the idea that we are all stuck in an endless economic malaise from which we my never recover…the daily reseeding of that idea throughout the world’s media channels is a powerful negative force in prolonging our economic difficulties.
What’s an idea you’d like to see better spread – or one you’d like to see wither and die?
I heard somebody say this the other day – and had to smile. I think it’s not only kind of funny, but true: change has become the basic, day-in-day-out reality of business life. I was asked recently to write an article for Forbes.com on being strategic in these times of such deep and consistent change. It was part of a special report package about change management.
I very much enjoyed writing it – and Fred Allen, forbes.com’s leadership editor, had some excellent edits that made it even crisper – but I enjoyed even more Forbes’ appreciation of the need for staying strategic in times of change. As I’ve said before, it’s all too easy to default to the tactical/survival/hunker down mentality when things are looking unfamiliar and scary.
It takes clarity, courage and focus to keep thinking about how to create a successful future for yourself, your family, your business in times of change. I like to think that the tools and approaches Proteus offers help provide the clarity and focus.
The courage is up to each of us.
A few months ago, I mentioned we were working with Tim Grahl and his team at Out:think. They’re helping us figure out how to gather up our tribe; how to support and be supported by the folks who are interested in the work we’re doing – and who want to use it to create the work and the lives they want.
This website is a result of our work together, and Tim and company are also in the process of creating a fan page on facebook for us, as well.
Tim’s most exciting idea, though – at least from my point of view – is what we’re calling “Erika’s Insider List.” It’s a group of people who’ve elected to be included in a twice-monthly communication. I love it because it feels kind of like the grown-up version of a kids’ secret clubhouse – the place you could talk about the stuff that was really interesting (and eat cookies).
Once a month we’ll send something with a content focus; ideas and articles hot off the presses, or – in some cases – previous posts or articles that we feel deserve a second look. The other monthly communique will be more conversational: a request for input on a topic we’re mulling, or a little bit about what’s happening at Proteus; who we’re working with, the impact we’ve seen on clients, how we’re growing.
And we’ll keep working to figure out how to make the List more useful and interesting to its members.
If you’d like to join us, you’re more than welcome – the “Erika’s Insider List” sign-in is in the right sidebar of the home page, under my bio.
We’ll have to figure out about the cookies…
This is my week for guest blogging. On Friday, I was invited to post on the CNBC Bullish on Books blog, and I offered a post about how to deal with having been laid off from a job.
In the blog, I talk about keeping your mindset accurate and focused, and assessing objectively the good news (great skills, experience or attitude) and bad news (thin financial resources, maybe your industry or sector is tanking). Then, I suggest, be willing to envision a successful future, and decide (and execute) the specific steps you’ll have to take to get there.
I’m fascinated at the comments the post has gotten. A number of them are very negative: the main premise is that I’m way too positive, and have no idea what it’s like in the real world (some comments: when’s the last time the author had to look for a job, or had to feed a family). To set the record straight, I’ve always been the main breadwinner in my family, and because I’m a small business owner, I feel as though I’m looking for a job every day.
Interestingly, these posters are demonstrating exactly what I suggest NOT to do: they list all the reasons it’s ridiculous and unrealistic for them to get a decent job – let alone to be hopeful or strategic. And although I know it’s a hard situation to be in, assuming that it’s an impossible problem to solve (and convincing yourself over and over that anybody who says otherwise is a Pollyanna) is 100% counterproductive.
Practicality + clarity + hopefulness seems to me to be the most useful combination when you’re in a difficult situation.
What do you think?
Recently, I was asked by Sally Evans, who blogs at Embracing Creativity, to opine about being strategic on her blog. The tag line for Sally’s blog is “Empowering you to lead a joyful and creative life,” and I love that she sees being strategic as a support for doing that. She asked me a couple of great questions – about getting clear on what you want and on dreaming big enough to inspire yourself.
In answering her questions, I was reminded once again how strategy and being strategic have gotten a bad reputation: people tend to assume “strategic” means “dry, plodding, complicated, financially-oriented and theoretical” – with a slight overlay of “deceptive and calculated”!
That’s why I like our definition: that being strategic means consistently focusing on those core directional efforts that will best move you toward your hoped-for future. It’s how I’ve seen the best, most effective leaders operate.
I see being strategic as an approach and a set of skills that’s essential to bringing creative ideas to fruition; once you’ve come up with a wonderful idea – a hoped-for-future – you need to figure out how to make it a reality and stay the course to get it there. That’s the consistent focus on core directional efforts.
That’s why, when we use this approach with clients, we tend to label it the “Vision and Strategy Process”: joining the creative leap of visioning with the practical “mapping” of strategies and tactics is a powerful way to move toward a new reality.