Let’s think about something cool

One of the challenging things about travelling all of the time is that it can be hard to find time to learn about the cool things people are doing in your space.

Thankfully, now that I’m at home more I have time for actual thinking, so last Friday I went to a great event that was a little bit of a pulse-check on the state of big data and analytics. There were presentations from Hitachi Solutions and from MIcrosoft – who should be congratulated for finally recognizing and embracing Excel as the day-to-day BI tool for some – amongst others, and various interesting use cases to review and discuss.

Every day I see that the majority of business, especially enterprise business, is still stuck just trying to find their data and make it reliable and useful. It’s events like these keeps your imagination going, thinking about the different kinds of long-term benefits timely, reliable data can bring – very helpful while you’re slogging through the drudgery of data cleanup!

Thanks Hitachi Solutions Canada (@HitachiSoCa) for setting it up!

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Try, try again

I’m in the process of leaving a project this week and my successor has been coming up with suggestions on how to improve as the team goes forwards. It’s tempting sometimes to say, “I tried that already and it didn’t work,” but I stop myself if I can.

I have to remind myself that the fact that I tried something and it wasn’t successful is not an indicator of potential failure if someone else tries something similar. The project has continued to develop, the participants have changed, maybe the approach is slightly different – who knows? Maybe this time the outcome will be better.

This is not to say we should mindlessly repeat ourselves, expecting a different result every time, but we can sometimes be tempted to squash other people’s ideas on the basis of our own experience.

Let’s not do that.

You just don’t know what the future will hold for any attempt at a leap forwards. It’s better for everyone to stay positive on possible outcomes and avoid letting our own experiences jeopardize someone else’s opportunity for success.

Great coaches

I’m always interested in working with great coaches and am lucky to have found a few along the way. How do I recognize them? How do you know if you’ve found one?

Great coaches know that most people can’t take in a long checklist of improvements. When someone gives me too much to think about, I spend all my time checking each move and I lose the flow of what I’m doing.

Great coaches focus on one area of performance at a time. They give you one or two things to think about or correct, and what they give you often has an impact far beyond the immediate.

I practiced karate for years and noticed time and again how a good instructor would get a student to make a small adjustment that made a big difference. They’d ask a student to adjust their hip position slightly and that would affect their foot position, their leg, shoulder, their arm – you’d see a person’s whole body change as a result of one small shift.

Look for people who give simple instructions that have great effect, and maybe you’ll have found a great coach. Think about the same approach for yourself – the world can always use more!

The last word

I spent some time this week watching email fly back and forth between people at work and thought about how much of it wasn’t necessary. So much of the time – in written and spoken communications – people seem driven to have the last word on a subject. Which prompts someone else to have another last word, and so on and so on.

I suppose it’s a way of asserting your identity, of making sure your voice is heard and distinguishing yourself from the crowd. These are valid goals, but is it always necessary to pursue them in this way, in a work environment? Sometimes maybe yes, but I’d argue far less often than we see it today. When you’re dealing with a client it can be particularly unattractive.

Recently I saw a consultant argue with a client in a public forum, talking over them in an attempt to have the final say. I could feel my skin crawl as I watched this display and tried to think of a way to end it. Eventually the client did end it – by letting the consultant have the last word – but was this really a good idea? What is the eventual cost to that relationship?

So the next time you’re tempted to follow up, correct, talk over, disagree or say “me too!”, just have a little think about why you’re chiming in. Is it necessary, or is it just because you’re trying to one-up the competition, whoever that is?

You can’t tell people

A former colleague and friend of mine gave me a phrase a few years ago that I find I use all of the time.

I was speaking to her about a situation with a client in which I’d recommended one course of action and they took a different path. Now they were in trouble and I was saying what a shame it was that they hadn’t taken my advice. She said, “You know, after a while being right loses its impact.”

I realized then – and continue to realize every day – that you can’t tell people anything. You can only ever create the conditions under which they discover things for themselves. This is how we all really learn.

So ask questions, listen, challenge, seek to understand – all while keeping your objective in mind – and create the situation in which the client can make the right choice. Just don’t bother telling them. They won’t really get it unless they get to it themselves.

Be Gentle With Yourself

I used to do yoga with a friend of mine. She would watch me struggle into poses and struggle to hold them – I’m not really a yoga type – and after awhile she’d say,

“Be gentle with yourself.”

Have you ever done your best work when you’ve felt like you’re struggling? I haven’t. My best work flows. It feels good to do it and it makes me feel great.

There are lots of days we’re asked to “lean in” and work hard, but this doesn’t mean we have to be unkind and thoughtless about ourselves. Not a bad thing to remember from time to time.

More Difficult Than You Think

it was my birthday this week and I was reminded of another birthday, many years ago, during which I did a workshop about mastering the self and your own self-expression. I’m not always someone who enjoys public soul-searching but it proved to be one of the best workshops I’ve ever done. I left it feeling open and free and happy in my own skin.

The leaders created a very safe space in which to explore  but still, one task proved to be the most difficult for everyone. This was to write a love letter – to yourself – and then to read it aloud to the small groups we were working in.

Try it. I guarantee you will find it difficult to seriously address yourself and express positive, loving feelings. Then try reading it aloud. Every single person who did this at the workshop had tears in their eyes as they were speaking.

These days we’re all asked to do a lot – to do the best for our clients and our employer, to support our families and friends, to make money, to achieve, to do what sometimes feels like the impossible, to commit to what we love. How can you do those things, how can you commit, if you can’t love and support who you are?