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The World of Expectations, Part 1

Expectations- we all have them, whether of ourselves, of others, or of the world and life itself. There’s just no getting around it. Really.

In fact, for the purposes of this conversation, I invite you to consider something. I invite you to come with me as we take a look at ourselves through the view called “human being as expectation.” Sound kind of odd? It’ll be okay, I promise- this is not “the truth.” It’s a view of ourselves (and our work, our lives, etc.) that, when taken, may just provide you with something new; like maybe a new insight into your own performance or experience, or a new opening for action where you didn’t see one before.

See, that’s what we do here- we engage in new (and sometimes counter-intuitive) views such that we’re left with new possibilities, new opportunities and unprecedented and maybe even previously unthinkable results. So again, for the sake of what you’re committed to in your work and your life, I ask you to try this on.

Expect: to look forward to; regard as likely to happen; anticipate the occurrence or the coming of. (Random House, 2011)

Let’s start right where we are: right here (aren’t we always?). Why are you reading this blog right now? I’d imagine it’s because you think that it may prove valuable to you in some way, yes? So you’re expecting it to be worth investing your time and attention in, right? Great (we share that expectation, by the way).  Or maybe you’re just bored and have some free time at the moment. Even then, can you see that the very fact that your time seems to currently be “free” is a function of how you’re expecting the rest of the day, week, and so forth to go? For instance, if you had a project deadline four hours from now and five hours of work to do to finish, I don’t think that your time would seem so “free”, would it?

My assertion: Take a close look, and I think you’ll find that who you are (your thoughts, feelings and actions) in any given moment is perfectly correlated with the future you’re expecting. Make sense? Please read that statement again. I’m saying that how you are being in any given moment, including how you feel and what you do or don’t do, is perfectly matched with and reflective of the future that you are, in that moment, anticipating. Is that clicking for you? Or maybe it seems very obvious, leaving you wondering, “So what?” That “so what”, that constant and pervasive concern for the future is exactly what we’re pointing to.  And don’t worry, we’re getting to “so what”- but now just notice how you’re now being, and how that is intimately connected with your expectations.

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Service is Missing

Service is missing – this is not hard to see. Not everywhere, but lack of service is so widespread as to be the norm. I believe that service is for the most part missing as a value and attribute of organizations that are, like it or not, in the service business. I believe that service is a mind set, not tasks or labor. It is, rather, a commitment one makes to have people feel welcomed, respected and valued. It often involves the exchange of something of value (it could be information or knowledge) and most significantly, it is a way of being that leaves people feeling “taken care of.” In some situations this can simply be called “hospitality”, but it is more than that.  Service is a personal commitment, a way of being that others are satisfied.

Yesterday, I walked into a local establishment for breakfast and had to interrupt the conversations behind the counter to order. I have no doubt that the activities of the night before were of interest to the people who worked there – how drunk who got and with whom they left the bar – I, on the other hand, just wanted some breakfast, and having to interrupt, felt like I was interfering. There, in the local coffee shop, I watched the backs of the people “serving” customers as they went about their lives, with the fact that someone was waiting for them, that patrons were waiting, merely incidental.

I remember being greeted as I came into an establishment. I remember when it seemed that the people I do business with actually wanted me, personally – not just someone – but specifically me, to purchase their goods and/or services. I still find that quality in some places – and to those places I go often.

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I Don’t Wanna…!

“I don’t want to!”

“I didn’t say I would…”

“Something else came up.”

“I don’t feel like it!”

Have you ever had any of those thoughts? Ever said any of those things out loud?

Has any of the above ever seemed to directly prevent you from fulfilling on important commitments? Maybe repeatedly, even?

If so, welcome to the club! You are like the rest of us: challenged to do what it takes to fulfill on all of your commitments. While it is very tempting, and easy, to generalize as such, this difficulty is not the result of being lazy, irresponsible or incompetent. It is, however, an expression of, and an indicator of, your relationship to 1) that to which you’ve committed yourself, 2) the nature of commitment itself, and 3) integrity.

Said another way, the source of the problem isn’t what we know or don’t know; it isn’t in what we don’t know about ourselves or about a particular commitment. But it does lie in the usually unexamined and hidden network of interpretations, beliefs, and assumptions that constrain and shape our viewpoints, thoughts, moods, and actions.

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Top 3 Ways to Kill a Relationship

“Existential analysis has the character of doing violence, whether to the claims of the everyday interpretation, or to its complacency and its tranquilized obviousness.” -Martin Heidegger

February is upon us, which means for most of us that we have been immersed in and surrounded by Valentine’s Day and all its trappings. This has been a time for many to buy cards, flowers, candy, dinner, and so on, while others resist and condemn various qualities of the holiday and even the holiday itself.

Either way, I’m guessing that no matter which group you’re in, your attitude and actions around Valentine’s Day are the same as they were last year. I bet that you could explain the background and reasons for your position, maybe even relate a compelling story of heartbreak and disappointment, or of true love and serendipity.

I dare you to risk everything, and file all of that under “everyday interpretation” and “tranquilized obviousness.”

Today, let’s do some Heideggerian violence to what seems so obvious. Rather than explore an abstraction, stand or ideal, let’s reveal what’s probably already happening now. In all our “complacency” we are probably, right now, killing off our relationships, and therefore our possibilities, opportunities and fulfillment.

How do we do such things? Well, I can tell you how I do it, and how thousands of people I’ve had the opportunity to coach, support and intimately interact with do it. If you have a willingness to be authentic, and a sense of humor, I think you’ll see yourself here as well. If not, you may want pass this by for now…

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2011: Best Year Ever

Once again, we find ourselves at the start of a New Year; a time for looking toward, planning for and even designing our future. I know that, for me personally, I’ve declared 2011 to be my best year ever, and I’m committed that each and every person in and around my communities has that same opportunity. Along those lines, I’m happy to acknowledge those that have joined my Best Year Ever coaching group, kicking off January 15th. This is a local group of entrepreneurs and leaders who have completed my Power & Performance Program, and are committed to really knocking 2011 out of the park in terms of professional performance and quality of life. I am honored to be working with such inspiring and committed people, and can’t WAIT to get started!

On another note, this can be a confronting time for many of us.

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Project Management Goodie

When I was on the IBM Corporate Technical Staff, I used to go around to the various locations around the world and “help” them with their projects.  I visited with a myriad of project management people at all levels and on all types and sizes of projects.  One of questions I would ask each person I spoke to was “what do you look at in your everyday management of your project?”  Most people showed me some version of their project plan: tasks, checkpoints, people assignments, and so on.  But one day, I was shown something that I had never seen before, something so useful that I have shared it with every project team I have worked with since.

  What I saw was a graph with time running left to right and top to bottom.  The origin at the top left represents the start date of the project.  The scale of both the horizontal and vertical axes is the same.  The horizontal axis is labeled “plan dates” and the vertical axis is labeled “actual dates.”  The initial plan for the project is represented by checkpoints (or “milestones” if you prefer) on a horizontal line.  The vertical position of the horizontal line is the actual date the plan was created or modified.

Here’s what this looks like: 

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Transforming Your Business Through Living Thanksgiving

For those of us who live in the U.S., this Thursday is the celebration of Thanksgiving: a day of gratitude for all that we have, and all that got us to where we are. Most of us, certainly anyone reading this post, have a whole lot to be thankful for, regardless of the recent state of the economy. Given the constant pull to give our attention to what’s wrong and what we don’t have, I personally am looking forward to this occasion to focus on and appreciate what I do have.

So that’s one step; redirect what you’re focusing on from what’s not there to what actually is there. This is certainly relevant in business. One could say that leadership and management of an organization is largely a function of what isn’t. In leading a team, our intention is to produce some result or outcome that isn’t currently present. In managing a team, we measure “where we are” in a project against where we aren’t (projections, promises, etc.). Business is all about what isn’t. So now is the opportunity to really focus on what is; acknowledging fully the results, opportunities and quality of life we do have. This in its own right can be quite a transformative experience.

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