Monday, September 28, 2009

Brothers' Weekend and the Pedometer Health Plan

I am just back from a Brothers' Weekend in Lionshead where my brother Glen lives. Lyle came up from North Carolina. We hiked the Bruce Trail, went sailing, played cards and we laughed. Brothers' weekend is an Estill brother tradition that was started by my older brother Mark. The 4 of us went on 25+ weekends together all around North America from Algonquin canoe tripping, sailing off the Carolina coast, cabin in the Poconos, cottages, Vegas etc.

This is the second Brothers' weekend we have been on since Mark died in December. The last one, was not the fun of this one. As a matter of fact, I was not really looking forward to this weekend but it was a blast. Perhaps we are starting to heal.

I was wearing a pedometer and inspired Lyle to go get one. (I love it when I have that impact on people) The idea is simple. Walk 10,000 steps per day. Wearing the pedometer and tracking steps reminds us to do it. There are even books on the topic (although I have not read them) like "Pedometer Walking:Stepping Your Way to Health, Weight Loss and Fitness"

I have used different pedometers and they all calibrate a bit differently so all counts are not equivalent (EG if you compare to me, yours might be + or - 10%).

Mine does not add steps for cycling so total exercise can be a bit off (EG if I cycle for an hour, I get no steps credit). Same with weight lifting.

Over the past 16 days, I have averaged 11,925 steps per day. Theoretically, I am training for a marathon so should be higher than average. The previous 16 days I averaged 13,213 and the 10 days before that I was 14,245.

I find I get about 3500 or 4000/day just for being me (my all time low is 2,000/day and twice I have been over 30,000 steps). So to get over 10,000, I need to pace for 65 minutes or walk for 50 minutes (for me, walking is faster) or run for 35 minutes. Usually, I do a combination of all to hit my number.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

The Power of Strategic Commitment

My latest book review is on "The Power of Strategic Commitment - Achieving Extraordinary Results Through TOTAL Alignment and Engagement" by Josh Leibner, Gershon Mader and Alan Weis. Great book.

The book is more about gaining commitment than what the strategy should be. Strategy has always been one of my greatest strengths. And of course to make a strategy work, I always need buy in.

The gist of the message is sell people in the organization to be committed. We all know that many people are not fully engaged, this book talks about how to get them engaged. Clearly a laudable goal. I did not need the chapter on why it is important.

Some Quotes:

"Commitment trumps compliance". "Most leaders confuse Compliance and commitment". So true. And the cost of having police is not only their cost but the reduction in speed it can create for an organization.

"The only thing harder than gaining trust is losing it and trying to regain it". The book talks about the need for trust and how to gain it (mostly just old fashioned walk the walk, integrity, fairness, consistency).

"Are you your history or your future - you really have a choice"

"Strategy must be bold enough to make the organization more effective". I have seen this first hand. Bold strategy does involve some discomfort and change. This is where the people need to be inspired.

Interesting aside. I did not know where the phrase stake in the ground came from. Aztec warriors used to tie their ankle to a stake so they could not retreat from their position. It was win or else...

I loved the scorecards and tools in the appendix and could see a definite practical use for them. They would be perfect for someone who is a leader or manager with more than a few people.

Have a great day!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Pacing to Solve Problems

I spent part of the weekend at a beautiful retreat property in Pennsylvania called "The Country Place Retreat and Conference Center". Visited there with the author of "Don't Take it to Work" Sylvia LaFlair and her husband Herb. Great people.

The property has a labyrinth on it built with stones and woodchips. One way I use to solve business (or I suppose any) challenges is to pace. The labyinth is a great place to do this. It is outdoors in a beautiful setting. This particular one is 300 steps (I did not count it, I wear a pedometer but that is another post).

The way I use pacing is first I brainstorm on paper on my challenge. Then I leave it for a while. Then I start my pacing. I like to carry a pen and paper in case any great ideas come into my head. Pacing for me is slower than walking. It is just a plodding pace.

If I do not come up with a solution or find my mind is wandering too much, I will leave it. Then start again later. Some particular challenges can take 20 or 30 pacing sessions. Most of these sessions only last 10-15 minutes for me.


I did an online career and job search course called my personal job coach. It starts with a modified version of Myers Briggs personality test to determine the right approach for me. Then it works through sections on strengths, blind spots, satisfiers, and skills. It then walks through sections on target jobs and even interviewing (including how to deal with blind spots).

It has a short videos followed by a short exercises.

Like anything, the more the person puts into it, the more they will benefit from it.

The whole thing takes about an hour. Interesting process.

If you are interested in doing it, it costs $49.95. But for 3 readers who post creative ideas in the comments here on how they have gotten a job, I will give them the course for free. Include your email address in the comment so I can contact you.

Randy Pausch - The Last Lecture

On Thursday night I had the privilege of hearing Jeffrey Zaslow speak at a YPO event. He is the author of The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch. Pausch was a Professor at Carnegie Mellon who died last year of pancreatic cancer.

I read the book yesterday. Jerry is a great speaker. Very entertaining. He also writes well.

One exercise universities often do is ask professors to deliver what would be their last lecture. Their last words of wisdom. (Good exercise for all of us to think about). The difference with Randy's lecture was he knew it was his last.

The lecture was multiple points of wisdom delivered through stories. Stories can be powerful ways to convey messages. Things like:

Be Persistent

Be a constant learner

Tough love is good (if it is delivered tactfully)

Learn from Tough Love (very tough to do - it is easy to reject feedback)

Earnest is better than hip

Don't complain - Just work harder

The book talks about Randy's dreams. His bucket list included things like experiencing weightlessness, writing for World Book, working for Disney etc. Most he achieved. Some (like playing in the NHL) he did not.

Randy had a great sense of humour that showed through. He also had a great optimism. He lived a frugal life. His energy inspires. He loves quotations (he calls them clich├ęs) like I do.

The book is a bit of a tear jerker near the end. He has a wife and 3 children under the age of 6 (well, not the wife).

The full lecture video is available here. Or google and watch shortened ones. I suggest watching the short version video together with reading the book to get the full effect.

He reminds us "It is all about how you live your life." and that is our choice.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Happy About An Extra Hour Every Day

People ask me why I like business and motivational quotes (That's most of what my Twitter and Linkedin Stream is). Quotations are a way to express a view and impart wisdom without sounding conceited.

The irony is, it almost does not matter who said it. People figure if it is a quote, the person must be someone insightful and they just don't know the person. The person who is quoted can sometimes help and sometimes hurt the impact depending on whether the reader has high respect and likes the individual quoted or not.

Nicolas Soergel wrote a book called Happy About An Extra Hour Every Day. Of course being a Time Management student and author myself, I was really looking forward to learning a few new gems.

I agree with the gist of everything he said in the basis of Time Management. Have clear goals. Goals come before action. Then have a to do list and prioritize it. Write things down. Habits are one of the best ways to gain effectiveness. Plan. All simple but effective. What I was looking for was new tips. I am a bit of a tough customer for new tips since I have read most books published in the last 10 years on the topic.

The book is not advocating a particular system, rather it is a compendium of tips.

Much of the book seemed fairly junior. Perhaps I am too studied and practise too much of it? Many of the tips seemed too obvious. Some seemed too trivial.

Some of his tips:

1 - Chaining as a way to build a habit. Think of building a chain for each day or week you do something. EG. If I want to run daily, each day I run is a new link. Perhaps I build 20 links then skip a day. I then start a new chain and try to break 20 etc.

2 - In cleaning, use 2 hands. Why not use 2 cloths instead of 1?

3 - Less credit cards or bank accounts means less paperwork, less reconciling etc.

4 - Have a don't do list. (one of my favourites)

5 - Buy in large quantity (EG Business Cards) to save the time of re-buying

6 - Pay annually rather than monthly - EG insurance.

I liked the list of websites the book has. They are good resources.

The book is short (which I like - see In Praise of Brevity)- 100 pages.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Book Reports and Other Stuff

I cannot believe I say I am swamped when I am between gigs. Lots of speaking, teaching Time Management Seminars, advising on buying companies, negotiation assistance. I am still considering though if this is where my future lies and if this is where I can have the greatest impact.

Catching up on my guest blogging. I wrote an article - Sales - Its All About Relationships.

I read a great book by Steve Sisgold - "What's Your Body Telling You? Listening to your body's signals to stop anxiety, erase self-doubt, and achieve true wellness." Of course when I saw the title, I assumed it was for older runners who need to be careful of what is happening to not injure themselves but no - it is about gut instinct as opposed to over thinking things.

Like all good books - he points out simple and obvious truths.

He speaks of the evolutionary advances that took us from processing information only through gut feel to speaking and "advanced" thinking that has moved us to processing information only in our head.

We know what is right but we tend to ignore it. Partly because we have trained ourselves to ignore it. Schools tend to train us that "thinking" is the highest power so we lose our instinct.

The book has a number of exercises designed to still yourself long enough to be able to see what your body is really telling you is right. Doing this helps you to do what the heart knows is right even though the brain says otherwise.

It is a good book - highly recommended.

I also read a book - more of a manual on Selling called "Winning Sales Advice - Sales Secrets from The Decision Maker's side of the desk" by Mike Schell from Thought Leader. His challenge to me came from a blog entry I wrote where I said one Speed Reading Tip is to not read it. So how much would I read. (I read the whole thing - it was a quick and easy book to read)

This book is not written in normal book format. It is much more interview snips, a short gem, then some examples.

The gist of the message is "research more - win more sales". And with the internet today, there is not excuse not to win with this one.

He also had a concept of a 10 minute meeting. The theory is that getting a meeting for only 10 minutes should work with almost anyone. Being a Time Management guy, I loved the concept. I cannot count the number of meeting I have had with sales people which took twice as long as they should have.

I also liked the sales approach of always looking at it from the buyers' view.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Pressure Funnel and Cut Costs and Grow Stronger

I know today will be a great day. My productivity is already high which is not the norm for me for the last week.

I notice that I am more productive when I more things that I consider important that must be done. I think of this as sort of a Pressure Funnel. If there is not enough in the top then what flows out the bottom flows too slowly.

So my solution is to productivity is to push myself hard to do some of the things I know I want to do. Some easy things I can do do add pressure is travel. That almost always puts me behind. I can add to my exercise goals. Can almost never do enough there. I add to my reading pile.

I tend to create my own pressure. I have noticed in leading staff, that most of them have the same phenomenon. So as a leader, it is up to me to help make sure the Pressure Funnel is full. However, I also observe that the amount of pressure needed varies from person to person. The key is building just the right amount of pressure.
I read an eBook "Cut Costs and Grow Stronger". I do not enjoy reading eBooks as much as reading an old fashioned book. The book is short - almost a long article. Lots of wasted space (I think sometimes people figure they are adding value by adding heft. 11 of the first 65 pages are just title pages etc.
The gist of the message is as the title suggests. Cutting costs strengthens a company - not weakens it as many people say. The reason cutting cost strengthens a company is the increased focus it creates.
The book rightly suggests the key is to correct identify what your company's unique capabilities. What things do the customers value. And cut the rest. This is called the Capabilities Driven Cost Cutting model.
It also speaks of fear as being a great motivator to inspire change. I certainly have noted that.
The only thing the book could have added was "with heart". I have seen that companies that treat people with respect win the hearts of their people. And inspired people well out perform frightened people. Cutting costs can create politics that may not have previously existed. People tend to rally behind a company if they understand the need to do things. Heart may still mean making changes. It may still mean letting some people go. It just implies that there is a thoughtfulness (for me, it is almost an agonizing), a vision and trying to help people land well.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Do the Worst Thing First - or the Most Important.

One of my success habit is do the worst thing first thing. I like to do it first thing in the morning and again right after lunch. This is a great way to solve procrastination.

But as I practise this habit, I notice a conflict. Often, the greatest impact, the most important thing is not the worst thing. So by practising my worst thing first habit, I do not do my most important. And working on the important is the whole basis of time management.

An example of that for me is admin work is my least favourite - so filling in bank forms might be my worst thing (and one of the things I procrastinate on the most). I actually like structuring purchase agreements and I have one of those to do. And it would be the place that I can add the greatest value.

My solution - do both but the "worst thing first", I limit to 15 minutes. I can always spare 15 minutes.

I must be in a philosophical mood today because this leads me to think about gray areas. Most things are not black and white. This lack of true clarity can slow or stop decision making which in itself can be worse than making the wrong decision. It is almost always best to make a decision quickly with imperfect information than to try for perfection and delay.

I have repeatedly seen that leaders who can handle ambiguity are the most successful.

And a quote sent to me by my daughter, Laura, too long to put on twitter:

"Humans cannot create matter. We can, however, create value. Creating value is, in fact, our very humanity. When we praise people for their strength of character, we are actually acknowledging their ability to create value."-Tsunesaburo Makiguchi

Friday, September 04, 2009

We Control Our Own Schedule

I thought I would be bored without a full time CEO gig (and any CEO gig for me always means way more hours than what some people consider full time - one of my strengths is energy and work ethic)

So what am I filling my time with?

1 - My boards take some time - especially the RIM board.

2 - I am helping a friend buy a company. This is perfect for my background and skill set. This involves some travel so therefore, more time.

3 - I have a few Time Management seminars I am giving. Nothing that I need to promote as they are "in house" for companies.

4 - I invested a bit of money in a company that makes Calliflower - a conference calling and webinar type product. I am going to see how easy or tough that product is to sell. I am going to track my time and methods to see what the returns will be on it.

5 - I am a featured Blogger at the upcoming World Business Forum in New York on October 6-7. Should be awesomely interesting judging from the speaker lineup which includes people like Bill Clinton, Jack Welch, Patrick Lencioni, George Lucas, T. Boone Pickens etc.

What am I not doing enough of? Figuring out what I really want to do. For this, I will need to actually schedule time. I am suffering from letting busyness crowd my schedule and take my time. Now I just have to choose to control my schedule.