Wanna know how you are doing?

The following is the original and the rewrite can be found by clicking here

"OMG! It's going to hell in a hand basket, it's over... it's done! I will save you the trouble and throw myself under the bus... a complete failure!" Dramatic maybe, but have you ever taken this kind of perspective with something?  Wait before you answer...

You then look to another point of view, and although somewhat similar to yours, it tends to be different; more often than not doesn't involve a bus, you are on the right track, you are better off than you thought, and there's just more work ahead of you (granted, maybe a lot more).

If ever there was a truism, it is this - People will look at "situations" differently... and with that said, never assume the way you look at the situation is correct. "Situations" in this context can be anything... a problem, an opportunity, a team's performance, an individual (you)... name it. If you want to understand, improve, harness or deal with a situation effectively, you need to see it for what it is - To do this effectively, you need different points of view to get a true picture; increase your chances for success. It is at the heart of all effective planning and execution.

And there it is, the answer to "wanting to know how you are doing?" - Get other people's point of view regarding you and your situation... the more objective and tangible the point of view, the better. Expanding on this a little, here are some thoughts:

  • If you have a strong sense of worth (ego) and a strong need to be "right", you have to "check this at the door". It will impede your ability to listen, let alone understand another point of view. If you find yourself getting defensive or outright dismissive, that is a sure sign you have work to do.
  • Remember the question "how you are doing" has to be relative to something... ensure what that is has been clearly defined and there is context to the question.
  • Getting a point of view from someone that thinks like you isn't very helpful and is just an elaborate exercise in self-validation. You need a point of view from someone with different ways of thinking, life perspective, credibility and experience.
  • You need more than just one different point of view, which allows you to develop themes and ultimately a clearer picture of the situation. This creates a valid perspective of how you are doing.
  • Depending on the situation, this can be an emotional question; we are human after all. Knowing this, think of "a point of view" as a constructive, intellectual exercise that helps develop clarity and understanding. If you are being asked for your point of view, do it with respect and appreciation that it can be a "big deal".
  • If you are a people leader, you should be offering your constructive point of view before the question even gets asked.
  • It never hurts to get mentors and set up an informal advisory council.

Ultimately, we are trying to scratch at the reality of a situation so we can develop the appropriate understanding and a plan of action moving forward. There is no doubt that different points of view will help you understand a situation clearer. But I would suggest there is something even more important, and that is, "asking the question in the first place".

With that, "How am I doing?"


Tools and re-tooling... one big analogy!

Heads up... this will be one big fat analogy for understanding situations and problem solving. Recently I was reminded that when you don't use the correct tool(s), the job is so much more difficult; for that mater, sometimes impossible. I had to remove an "allen bolt" from a piece of machinery, and it was on so very tight, I could not loosen it.

If you are not familiar with an allen bolt, it is a bolt with a hexagon socket in the head and you use an "allen key" to loosen and/or tighten the bolt. As bolts go, it is a good one, and it's usually straight forward to get on and off (see picture). My allen key couldn't get it off; when I used a drill with a hexagon bit attached, I still couldn't turn the bolt... it would not budge and I had a BIG problem! I needed to get it off. 

Something you should know about getting bolts off, it is all about torque, which is to say the force of twisting; it explains why a drill wouldn't work, as it is built for speed, and although I thought I had an allen key, it was more of a bicycle tool. As a result of not recognizing that torque was required to loosen the bolt, I defined the problem based on the tools I decided to use - I used my perspective of the tools I had available to define the problem to be a very tight allen bolt... not that the real problem was that I did not enough available torque.

Eventually realizing I needed the right tool that would provide sufficient torque, I bought a true allen key (the long version); sure enough, the bolt came right off - The bolt was never too tight. 

As I look back at my trials and tribulations with the allen bolt...

  • I tried to align the situation to the tools I had at hand, instead of aligning the tools to the situation; this was compounded because although I understood needing torque, I dismissed it and focused on the tools.
  • I spend almost no time on the situation to really understand it, and develop a plan... I simple grabbed my tools and "went to work".
  • I became so entrenched with my line of thinking, it wasn't until I looked for advice that I was able to mentally "step back" and reassess what tools I was using to address the situation.
  • There was a part of me, deep down, that knew I should be working with a real allen wrench but didn't want to spend the time getting one, or even spending the money. In the end I had to buy one, and I calculate it ultimately took me 5 times longer. 
  • The tools I had were just fine, just inappropriately being used. It was not the fault of the tool that it could not remove the allen bolt.
  • The ultimate solution was to re-tool. I now have a fine set of allen keys that I can use another time.

There you have it... a story, lessons and reminders all from removing an allen bolt. 

It could have easily been a story about a new competitor, a major customer changing how they do business, a product launch to a new market segment, or applying for a new position.

Analogies are just so much fun, don't you think?


The art and necessity of trailblazing...

Author's note up front... this is a metaphorical journey that you are about to embark on. Do not worry, this will be fun.

The beaten path

The beaten path

If you live in the northern hemisphere, you are probably getting a little anxious for spring to arrive, as it has been a long winter. Yesterday it was in the air; the day was sunny, the air was clear, and relatively speaking, it was a balmy - 4 Celsius. With this in mind, I found myself hiking at a local conservation area; wandered through the snow off the beaten path (I obviously didn't read the sign). It was here that it struck me I was a bit of a trailblazer. I should be clear upfront that I have hiked and scrambled over these rocks before and I know the area, but now it was covered with thick blanket of snow; fresh and new.

A trailblazer is a person who blazes a trail for others to follow through unsettled country or wilderness. Now in the most literal sense, I wasn't really trail blazing as many people have wandered this area before. But today, in my current situation, there was not a trail to follow and if someone came after me they would most likely walk in my footsteps. Today, I was figuratively trailblazing - Practicing the art and necessity of trailblazing.

  • Trailblazers do not follow the blazes or the beaten path. It is also contextual, as one person's beaten path is an others undiscovered territory.

As I worked my way through the snow, it quickly became apparent that there were hidden boulders, branches and holes. Any of which could trip me up, delay my progress or if I wasn't careful, actually twist an ankle. Progress was slower, more thought-out, as I determined the best path to take. There were indicators, like trees, animal tracks and boulders not completely covered in snow to help find my way, and my hiking experience came in handy.

  • Trail blazing requires more thought and consideration as you work through it. With the beaten trail, more often than not, you can operate on autopilot.
  • Trail blazing can be an individual activity. You need to rely on your own skills and your experiences, and that may be all you have to work with.
  • When you are trailing blazing, there is a good possibility you could find yourself in an uncomfortable situation. There is risk involved.

Making my way with more confidence, I came to a steep incline with boulders and deep crevasses. Stopping to assess the situation it became apparent it was definitely riskier, particularly with the snow covering much of it. After picking up a walking stick, saying "hello" to a raccoon (who had ventured outside), and accessing my progress so far, I decided to continue on my "trailblazing" ways. There was a point where I came to a crevasse that I would have to literally leap; after reviewing the options, the foot holds and my ability, I took that leap of faith - Taking me to the place where I could see the whole valley.

  • Trailblazing involves constant evaluation of the situation so you can modify your approach and acquire the tools you may need.
  • Believe in your abilities and convictions, sometimes there will be a "leap of faith". 
  • You will see wonderful things on the way.

The return journey was not as technically challenging for my footing, but the snow had gotten deeper. The final part of my trek was just tiring, as knee high snow is a challenge to walk in but in the end, I got back to where I started. The air had refreshed me, I felt a sense of accomplishment, I saw some unexpected things and developed my hiking skills.

  • Sometimes trailblazing is just tiring.
  • It develops and reinforces your ability.
  • You can see and experience wonderful things.
  • You learn from trailblazing.

There you have it, my literal and figurative journey through the snow. As I was finding my way, I kept thinking of these words* -

On and on you will hike
and I know you'll hike far
and face up to your problems
whatever they are.
You'll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You'll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life's
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never forget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.
And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed! 

Trailblazing advocates challenging yourself with the new and different. And in that, prepares for the people who will eventually follow in your foot steps. This is the birthplace of experience and wisdom.


* From the book, "Oh, the places you'll go" by Dr Seuss.