Rushing to Conclusions Can Create Bad Judgement

We all do it.  Rushing to Judgement is easy to do. We observe something, make assumptions, draw conclusions, believe in those assumptions and take action. This morning a co-worker and I were volunteering offsite and had a call to take. We agreed to take the calls from our parked cars, then afterwards we were going out for a coffee. The call started, and I had not noticed where Jeff had parked. Later on in the call, I assumed Jeff was driving, as I heard car blinkers, etc. and I wondered why he had left. As I obediently stayed in my car, as was the plan, Mollie walked by and I took a moment to rat on Jeff for breaking our deal. The call ended, however, and there was Jeff walking up to my car window. “I thought you took off,” I said. “No, been here the whole time,” Jeff responded. Harvard Business Professor Chris Argyris branded this process the Ladder of Inference, a metaphorical ladder of steps we go through as we process observations (Jeff must be driving and not sitting in his car), draw conclusions (Jeff broke the deal, that jerk) based on what we assume (he didn’t want to have coffee with me), and take action (make sure Mollie knew what Jeff did to me). There’s an inherent danger in doing this because it can create bad judgement. In this case, it did. I was wrong. So what do I mean? This process of moving up the ladder can go pretty quickly. It supposes that if we don’t take the time to collect all the data, or all of the facts, we can pretty much justify in our own minds that what we observe is true, because we believe it to be true based on our previous observations. Why did I select the data that Jeff was in his car instead of actually confirming that he had left the parking lot? Why did I assume that the blinker sound was coming from his car instead of seeing who else was on the call and could have been driving? I should have stopped myself. To avoid this selective bias, we must stop ourselves and work harder to collect more data and facts about the situation. Ask ourselves, what am I missing? Why did I only select this data to use to draw my conclusions but didn’t seek more data? These are good reminders that when we feel ourselves rushing to judgement, the more appropriate thing to do is pause and see what may be on the other side of that story. And as my mother always told me, there’s always two sides to every story. I’m interested to hear from you on this topic. Shoot me a comment/reply/DM. Here’s a 3 minute video on the topic that I’ve sent people before that is a very brief and a good overview.

How Are You (Really) Doing?

I am noticing 90% of the conversations I engage in start with the question “how are you?” Typical answers . . .

  • Good
  • Fine
  • Okay

Usually followed up with, “and you?” and the answers parrot the initial answers . . .

  • Good
  • Fine
  • Okay

Do the same tally with your work interactions.  I’ll bet you will notice the same thing.

The deeper question is how are you really doing? I mean really.

There’s no doubt that with COVID-19 our lives have significantly changed. A therapist on the news today talked about anxiety, stress, depression and fear. Social media is pushing apps like Calm and other tools to help people because of the impact. Our college kids are back—kind of—and our school age kids are also learning and playing in different ways. Most of us are at home. And we’re working full time. Likely by now, we’ve either been impacted directly, or the circle of impact is swirling around us dangerously close.

Given that backdrop I’m not sure things are “good”, “fine”, or “okay”.

It’s super helpful to have a deeper conversation with each other, to reach out and connect beyond the surface. I’m personally missing those interactions as I’m fortunate enough to be in the office most of the time. The ways in which we establish and maintain authentic connections with each other are so very critical right now. If left unchecked, many feel—especially at work—distant and anonymous. As leaders, we must take more control of ensuring everyone, including ourselves, feels connected. Think of the metaphor of being on an airplane for the pre-flight speech that talks about putting your own emergency mask on first. As parents and leaders, asking yourselves about how you are really doing is a way to first address your own state of mind so that you can be in a better position to help others.

I’ll go first. How am I really doing?

This is hard.

I’ve felt more stressed, more pressure to “do it all”. I’m worried about the virus, how long it will take to get a vaccine, and the impact to our healthcare system. I’m not as patient as I need to be.

I’m concerned about all of you, our team, and how you are dealing with it.

I suspect we try to put a good “game face” on which is why we say we’re “good, fine or okay”. We think it helps at work to get right to business, the PowerPoints, meetings, etc. And for some that helps. But do we rest? Do we stop and take time to think? Have there been any positives coming out of this that we’ll take forward forever? Conversely, are there things or patterns that this has told us are ready to stop or change for good?

I’m recommending that we ask each other these deeper questions, that we take the time to really understand how people are doing. Don’t take the easy way out. I think it requires an investment in others. Take time to reach out to those you are thinking about, or start your next meeting with a deeper level check-in, perhaps allowing people to recognize someone else for their contributions.

I’d suspect that we’re all in the same boat. If anyone wants to talk, check in, and share how you are really doing, I’m willing to meet and talk with anyone—it’s that important to me. The better we can relate to each other, the better we will be at getting through this together.

Stay safe and feel free to post replies about what is going on with you and I look forward to hearing from many of you.  One of my goals is to revive my blogging practice in September 2020.

 

Unwavering Commitment on an Icy Day

This weekend we had some weather that made it impossible to drive. Travel was not advised in our area, and public transportation was stopped because it was so bad. This reminded me of one day around 1980 when I was a kid growing up in Ames, Iowa.

On that day, travel was not advised as well; however, that day wasn’t just a day, it was Palm Sunday. Growing up in a Catholic home, every Sunday was important, but Palm Sunday is one of those special Sundays—not quite like Super Bowl Sunday, but definitely comparable to the conference playoffs.

Our home church, St. Cecilia, was about 4 miles away. With no car travel possible, I’m sure that I thought I had this free-of-church Sunday in the bag. After all, if you can’t drive, you can’t go to church.

Wrong.

My mother informed us that we were going to St. Thomas that morning. St. Thomas was the second Catholic church in town, and on campus at Iowa State, about 2 miles from our house.

“But how are we going to get there?”, I pleaded.

“We’re walking,” said my mother.

And so we walked.

Today as I reflected about that Palm Sunday, the story was less about religious conviction and more about simply demonstrating an  unwavering commitment.

All of us could commit to things in our life in a more unwavering way. But those justifications and excuses always get in the way, convincing us why giving less than 100% effort to something is okay. It could be our school work, or our relationships, or our work, or the need to lose that weight, or to exercise more, or to listen, or to just give the person sitting next to you your full attention.

As real opportunities to demonstrate your unwavering commitment present themselves in 2020, what are you going to do–talk yourself into staying at home or walk?

Up with the Good, Down with the Bad

By Dad’s bedside in the hospital where he was recovering from pneumonia, he scratched the phrase on his notebook.

For many of us, especially in our youth, these teachings are often overlooked or resented in some way because we think that we don’t need this type of advice. We’ve figured it all out, in our own mind.

But the truth is, we haven’t figured it all out. We haven’t experienced as much. We haven’t lived as much life.

Great fathers, like mine, are trying to teach us whether that is overtly or just by role modeling. As we advance in our years, these lessons come back to us when we find ourselves in the same fatherly shoes with our own children, and most of us have a greater appreciation later in life.

When our fathers physically leave us, our duplication of the same teachings/lessons to our children is one way we can keep our own fathers with us.

This Father’s Day, as I reflect back what my Dad has taught me, here are some of them.

Relate to People

Know people’s names and where they are from. Find a connection with them that is unique and remember it.

Be Forgiving

All of us have imperfections. Sometimes pointing out someone else’s imperfections doesn’t really serve a positive purpose. Overlook a great deal.

Keep Learning

Dad said recently, “Still, I am learning.”

Up with the Good, Down with the Bad

Get on with it. You can stay focused on the bad, but that doesn’t help you long-term. Instead, focus on the good and constantly improve.

I hope for each of you on this Father’s day that you too reflect.

I love you Dad.  We’re all-in to help you get better.handsdad

I’d love to hear what your reflections are. Thanks for allowing me to share mine.

Snow Daze

I looked out the window of my office above the garage. Everyone else was outside on this snow day. The boys were pushing each other down, the dogs were bounding through the new foot of fresh powder, and in that moment, it felt profound.

In the back of my mind, I could hear parents complaining about our 5th day of no school due to the weather. How inconvenient. The kids were driving them crazy. All they do is fight. They are always on their devices.

Just make them go outside, I thought.

I looked out the window again to focus on the moment.

I reminded myself to be present where we I am now.  I realize how irreplaceable, how unrepeatable, this day and moment are. Thank you, kids, for the chaos.

And for several more minutes, there I was, in my own snow daze.

(Inspiration from Fr. Don Talafous, OSB)house1.

HELP! We Need More Staff!

morestaff

I realized through a lot of career soul-searching that I’ve never uttered those words. To me, this can be a red flag.

Why?

You haven’t asked the right questions before writing that check.

Examples at companies are numerous and abundant. Call centers, for example, take repeat calls from customers every day, but they don’t know they are repeats. Their transaction-based cultures focus on helping that one customer get back on track (which is important), but rarely does they ask, “Why did my customer have to call?” or “Why didn’t that function work?” or “I wonder if that same thing is happening to other customers?” Just on to the next call, track your average handle time and try to lower it, and ensure you have enough staff waiting to take the next call so your customers don’t have to wait.  Or maybe your teams are working on too many things, and you haven’t asked the difficult questions about relative priorities or implemented the concepts of constraints (only x hours of work can be done by a fixed team, so prioritize what you need the team to work on and ask teams to stop working on work that does not add as much value).

Sometimes those transactions are not even tracked, so you have no chance at even mining the CRM or service management data for trends and patterns. So, when call volumes climb, the go-to seems to be “We need more staff.”

When contemplating whether or not to add, or not to add, (that is the question) Leadership must first ask what work those teams are doing that could be eliminated, automated, or dealt with in a different way.

By asking those questions, it forces the teams to dig deeper to identify improvement candidates and get them implemented.

I often tell people to treat their job and role as if they were the owner of the company, and it was their personal money being spent. Typically, this orientation proves the point—that we can get lazy in our critical thinking and problem solving when writing a check can take care of the short-term pain. But through this re-orientation, often times improvement ideas can be identified easily and implemented.  All you had to do is ask a few questions.

What Your Dad Never Told You

I was recently talking to a new Dad, and he asked me what was my perspective on being a Dad.

“It’s like removing yourself from the center of your universe and replacing it with someone else,” I said to him.

No one really prepares you for this re-framing, and you could speculate that some Dads don’t ever quite “get there”, but for the ones that do, it’s something that our children likely don’t understand until much later when they find themselves as parents.

We love you unconditionally.  That means we love you no matter what you do, or how you act, or what you say, or what you don’t say.  We love you this way because we are your Dad, and you are the center of our universe.

There are times that it isn’t easy being a Dad.  We worry about protecting you.    If you ever feel like we’re in the way, it’s because we’re trying to shield you from something that you don’t know or understand—yet.

We struggle when to let go and when to hold on.  Our instinct is to hold on, always hold on.  But there comes a point where we rationalize that our grip, on you, must loosen, as you experiment down your own path.  We do this because we believe in you.  We pray that somehow, somewhere, our guidance and support of you has been engrained into your DNA so that you can have a happy and successful life.

You give us so many moments that make us proud, too.  They remain in our minds, forever, painted like the pictures we took of each moment, of each achievement, of each milestone.  You gave us those moments, at those times, but also you gave them to us forever.  As you grow up, the puzzle pieces of your life will start to fit together, but we’re always there as the border pieces, surrounding you with who you are at your core and the lessons we taught you along the way.

We’ll always have each other.  No matter what the circumstances are, no one will ever take that away from us.  Even when we’re gone, we’re not gone.  You will take little pieces of who we were and weave them into your life because those pieces are the pieces that you’ll never ever forget about your Dad, because you were the center of your Dad’s universe.

Happy Father’s Day 2018 to Dads that are with us, and those that have left us.

Utah! Utah! Utah!

It was near the end of World War Two and my father’s cousin, Ed Pugsley, and his squadron  were being briefed about their next bombing mission in their B-29.  The co-pilot and his crew were part of a mission to bomb an oil refinery north of Osaka, a mere 8.5 hours and 1,500 miles away in what was their 16th bombing mission.

But if the surrender came while the crew was in-flight, they would receive the special radio code “Utah! Utah! Utah!” and they were to turn around and come home after dumping their bombs at sea.

“You never saw so many guys pressing their ears against their head sets,” Ed told his son.

Staying focused to the mission, the crew found their target and headed home, perhaps disappointed that the call didn’t come.  But about one hour into the return flight, the call came into the headsets–“Utah, Utah, Utah”.

I can imagine the relief that the war was finally over, but this battle wasn’t over for the crew.  As Ed later explained, the most notable accomplishment was that in terms of time and distance, this was the longest propeller driven combat strike in the history of the world.  “We were in the air 17 hours and 15 minutes.  Traveled close to three thousand miles.  When we got back to base we landed on fumes,” Ed explained.

This was officially the last mission of World War Two.

Ed was 19 at the time.

Ed died earlier this year, and his story was captured by his son Don at his eulogy.  Like so many in this “Greatest Generation“, Ed was strong and brave, but to me he was an incredible leader.

This Memorial Day, I thought about Ed and his team–what it was like, how they felt, what scared them, how they worked together, and what they talked about.  I can’t even imagine being in their shoes, at their age, and doing the things they were doing for our country.

All I can say is thank you for your service.

We’re In The Same Boat Now

Crickets–Why Acknowledgement is a Contribution

I took on my own stretch assignment at work, offering to lead two Working Out Loud Circles.  In these circles, the participants are learning about making contributions.

In my own words, contributions, in this context, are things you can do that just plain make you a better person to work with, and be around.  I found it extremely helpful to see ten contributions summarized in Week 8 of the program.

As I thought about my own practice of the ten contributions, there was one that was similar called “offer attention” but I coach others more overtly to contribute in a way just as important as the others—Acknowledgement.

So what do I mean?

How many times have you called someone, or sent an email, or a text message—or all 3—and never heard anything in return?  The kids call this getting ghosted when a friend does it to you.

Casper.  At work.  Who would’ve known?

How many times have you contemplated, seemingly for hours, about how to send the right message, with the right words, to someone else, like a boss?  Then, when you finally muster the courage to hit the “send” button, you wait with nervousness, wondering what he/she will think, or say, in return.

And you wait.  And wait.  And wait.

Nothing.

And then the doubts start to enter your mind.  Did I piss him/her off?  Did I over extend my boundaries?  Did I make a fool out of myself?

You check your email box, hitting “send/receive all messages”.  It’s like you’re now borderline crazy.

And still nothing.

If you’ve been there, you’re not alone.  But the remedy is very easy.  It’s called acknowledgement.

Just acknowledge that you got the message.  You don’t even have to craft a lengthy response.  How about this:

“Thanks for the note, I’ll take a look.”

Or

“I appreciate that you reached out.  I can’t commit to anything at this time, but will consider your ideas.”

Just…say…something.

From my experience, people that practice this simple contribution are more engaged, more inspiring, and establish authentic connections more often than people that just ignore the message.  Do you want people to play the sound of crickets to their friends after sending you a message as a mockery to your impending blow off, or do you want to practice making a small contribution to another person just by telling them you acknowledge that they reached out to you?

Take 60 seconds and acknowledge the other person—you’ll never regret it.