Managing Your Mind

Originally posted on Why Lead Now:

Doorway to Consciousness

Before you can effectively manage your career, relationships, home, hobbies, and the pursuit of your dreams, you’ll first need to master the skill of managing your mind. Yes, it is a skill. Yes, it can be learned and strengthened through the practice of meditation. Essentially meditation is mental training. Mindfulness—my preferred form of mental training—is the practice of focusing on present-moment experience. As simple as it sounds, it certainly is not easy! Mindfulness is learned experientially and getting a firm grasp on it takes time, but not as much as you might think. In this popular TED talk, Andrew Puddicombe explains it best:

The mind is the seat of consciousness, the realm of all mental and emotional processing, somatic sensation and perception, and the intricate combination of moment-to-moment experiences we call life. That’s where it all plays out, in your mind. Knowing that, you can see why a calm and well-functioning mind…

View original 375 more words

Motivation: What’s Yours?

Originally posted on Why Lead Now:

I was asked a question today: “What motivates you?”

I immediately thought about context: Motivations for work-related tasks? For my own personal goals? And then I thought about life in general. What motivates me to get up every day?


This is such a powerful question. The answer says so much about who you are as a person. Whether you are internally or externally motivated, and your reasoning for why you are motivated in that way can shed light on your values and morals. Even how you frame the answer conveys what you find most important in your life.

And yet, despite the wealth of information this simple question could provide, many leaders don’t ask this of themselves and of their direct reports. Leaders can uncover why they’ve become leaders and what strengths and weaknesses they possess. They can also discover how engaged their workforce is and how to better inspire…

View original 18 more words

Power of Two: Creative Foils

Joshua Wolf Shenk talks about competition in his book Powers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs. “Competition is when you need to kick the guy’s ass to get what you want. Rivalry is when you want to kick the guy’s ass. But such animosity – such oppositional passion – can actually lead both parties to each get more of what they want.” Who is your competitor or rival? Do you act as a foil for your competitor? Below is an excerpt from the book.

Creative FoilsPowers of Two: Finding the Essence of Innovation in Creative Pairs

In the mid-1970s, at Everett High School in Lansing, Michigan, nobody could touch Earvin Johnson Jr. on the basketball court. He was only fifteen years old but a local sportswriter had already dubbed him “Magic.” “You’re special, Earvin,” his coach told him. “But you can’t stop working hard. Just remember-there’s someone out there who is just as talented as you, and he’s working just as hard. Maybe even harder.” Magic nodded politely but he was thinking, I’d like to meet this guy, because I haven’t seen him.

“Truthfully,” he reflected later, “I wasn’t sure anybody like that existed.”

He did exist. His name was Larry Bird. He grew up in French Lick, Indiana, with two older brothers. “Mark and Mike were older than me,” Bird said, “and that meant they were bigger, stronger, and better – in basketball, baseball, everything. They pushed me. They drove me. I wanted to beat them more than anything, more than anyone. But I hadn’t met Magic yet. Once I did, he was the one I had to beat.”

His freshman year of college, Magic saw Bird on the cover of Sports Illustrated and was “blown away by his stats” (32.8 points per game on average and 13.3 rebounds). When the two played in a tournament, he saw that it wasn’t just numbers. “I couldn’t wait,” Magic said, “to call home and tell my boys, ‘Man, this dude named Larry Bird is for real.'” Bird was just as impressed: “I’ve just seen the best player in college basketball,” he told his brother Mark. “It’s Magic Johnson.”

On March 26, 1979, they faced off in the NCAA Finals. A sophomore at Michigan State, Magic was now a Sports Illustrated cover boy too, A senior, Bird had led Indiana State through an undefeated season, Thirty-five million people — still the largest audience ever for a college championship — watched the game, and they saw Indiana take a drubbing. Double-teamed, Bird missed fourteen of twenty-one shots. When the buzzer sounded, the dueling stars were the very picture of victory and defeat. As Magic, still panting from the game, wrapped one arm around his coach and the other around Bryant Gumbel for a postgame interview, Bird made his way to the Indiana bench, draped a towel over his head, and put his face in his hands. On national TV, Magic stuck out his tongue in delight, praised his coach, dodged the big question about when he’d leap to the NBA. Then the camera cut to Bird, now with his face buried in the towel

Sports nicely illustrate the fundamentals of competition because they’re built on what the philosopher James Carse calls “finite games” — clear contests, bounded in time, with rules designed to produce a winner and a loser (or rankings from the most to the least successful). Any impurities that leach in – a controversial call by the referee, say – are overwhelmed by the final score, the official record, the glum faces of postgame agony, and the raised arms of postgame thrill.

Though competition rouses us with specific promises of victory-a towering trophy, an impressive title – the most primal desire may be for triumph itself. Certainly, direct face-offs improve performance in all manner of conditions, an effect that has been validated empirically: One study found weightlifters able to bench-press an average of two kilograms (about four and a half pounds) more when competing with another person than when facing a crowd alone. Another found that people could squeeze a handgrip twenty-one seconds longer. Competition, compared to solo performance, has also been linked to increased heart rate and blood pressure, even when the challenge requires little physical exertion (as when study participants race toy cars).

What these studies suggest and measure, epic stories help us really see and feel-whether in business (Steve Jobs versus Bill Gates), politics (Abraham Lincoln versus Stephen Douglas), art (Pablo Picasso versus Hanri Matisse), or advise-giving (Ann Landers verusu Dear Abby). In sports alone, the sheer volume of epic pairings – Jack Nicklaus versus Arnold Palmer in golf, Muhammad Ali versus Joe Frazier in boxing, Chris Evert versus Martina Navratilova in tennis (and we could go on) – makes it seem like the rule, not the exception, that great work emerges from rivalry.

The irony is that, while an animating motivation comes from a desire to best someone – which is, at bottom, a desire for separation, for distinction – top players end up developing a strange attachment to one another, even a need for the other. Playing with the best brings out your best, and if the other guy is gunning to beat you, that may be bad for your stress level but it’s ideal for your performance.

What makes the attachment between rivals all the more poignant is that defeats, setbacks, and even humiliations may in retrospect seem like a shove down a better path. By 1998, the contest between Steve Jobs (who’d been exiled from Apple and had just returned to save a near-bankrupt company) and Bill Gates was so lopsided that Gates told a journalist: “What I can’t figure out is why he is even trying. He knows he can’t win.” But Jobs, by applying lessons learned in his exile (and by working effectively with others), would make Apple the most valuable company in the world. In his mid-forties, Abraham Lincoln (a one-term congressman and a prairie lawyer) found himself so outpaced by Stephen Douglas (an eminent U.S. senator) that he wrote in a note to himself: “With me, the race of ambition has been a failure – a flat failure; with him it has been one of splendid success.” Yet Lincoln framed an antislavery platform in contrast to Douglas and rode that local rivalry to national renown. In the presidential inauguration of 1861, it was Douglas who held Lincoln’s hat.

For stories of winning responses to stinging defeats, nothing beats the saga of Larry Bird and Magic Johnson. In the fall of 1979, Bird started as forward for the Boston Celtics and took his team to a 61-21 record. (The year before, they’d gone 29-53.) But the Celtics didn’t make it to the finals; Bird watched the games at a Boston restaurant. In the sixth game, Magic Johnson led his Los Angeles Lakers to the title over the Philadelphia 76ers.

Not only that, but Magic was series MVP.

“I was pissed,” Bird said. He was burning still from the NCAA finals, which even decades later he called the “biggest game of my life” and the “toughest loss I ever took.” Now Bird considered himself down by two.

Bird didn’t know it, but he had fueled Magic’s performance. The day before game six, Magic had learned that Bird had won Rookie of the Year — he’d gotten sixty-three votes, compared to only three for Magic. “I was jealous and I was mad,” Magic said. “I thought I had a great year. When I heard I only got three votes, I took it out on the Sixers. I wanted people to recognize my play the way they had recognized Larry’s.

“It wasn’t anything personal against Larry,” Magic added. “Well, actually, it was.”

Watching, anticipating, and responding to each other quickly came to feel like a necessity. Bird called the competition “a crutch” -“I had to have him there,” he said. First thing every morning, he would look up Magic’s stats in the newspaper. “I didn’t care about anything else,” Bird said, Magic felt the same. “When the new schedule would come out each year,” he said, “I’d grab it and circle the Boston games. To me, it was the two and the other eighty.”

In their second NBA season, in 1981, Bird’s Celtics took the NBA championship. The next year, Magic’s Lakers reclaimed it. At last, in 1984, the two met in the finals-which Bird relished as a long-awaited rematch of their college duel. The Celtics won in seven games. “I finally got him,” Bird told his teammate Quinn Buckner late into the celebratory night. “I finally got Magic.”

Magic was crushed. “It’s probably the first time ever in my life I was depressed,” he said. “It took me years to get over it,” he wrote in 2009. “Actually, I’m not sure I’m over it yet.” Bird savored his rival’s pain. “I hope he was hurt,” he said around the same time. “I hope it killed him … to not only win the game makes you feel good but just knowing that the other guy was suffering, and you know he was.”

Yet even this suffering was stimulating. “That championship series redefined his whole career,” said Magic’s teammate Michael Cooper, “because he never stopped working after that.” In 1985, the teams faced off again for the championship. This time, the Lakers took it in six games,

Even their off-court encounters were dramatic. Though Johnson often made friendly overturns, Bird always rebuffed him. In 1986, Converse introduced a Bird show and a Magic shoe, and the company persuaded them to shoot a commercial playing off their rivalry. Bird surprised Magic by making small talk between shots and even inviting him for lunch. When they met the next season, Magic found himself saying, “Hey, let’s go have a beer.” Bird said no way. “If me and him got to be really good friends… he could still play the same game,” Bird said. “I couldn’t. That’s just the way it is

Magic and Bird were foils for each other. Foil is the perfect word, because it has two complementary meanings. As a verb, from the French fouler (to trample), foil means “to prevent something undesirable; to impede, hinder, or scuttle.” As a noun meaning “a thing that by contrast emphasizes the qualities of another,” it derives from the practice of putting metal foil (from the Latin folium) underneath a gem to enhance its shine.

Foils who seek to stymie each other can also bring out each other’s best qualities. “If I’d beaten Pete [Sampras] more often,” Andre Agassi writes in his memoir, “or if he’d come along in a different generation, I’d have a I better record, and I might go down as a better player, but I’d be less.” Until recently, research psychology had no vocabulary for these relationships, I because it studied competition only through staged encounters. The subjects were always strangers and they performed in contests with a zero- sum game – one guy wins, the other loses, and that’s that. But over time, mere competition can evolve into rivalry, which the scholar Gavin Kilduff and colleagues define as a “subjective competitive relationship,” where the stakes feel higher “independent of the objective characteristics of the situation.”

Put another way: Competition is when you need to kick the guy’s ass to get what you want. Rivalry is when you want to kick the guy’s ass. But such animosity – such oppositional passion – can actually lead both parties to each get more of what they want. In a study of runners, Kilduff found that the presence of a true rival in a race (as opposed to mere competitors) led to faster times – an average of twenty-five seconds in a 5K.


You Need Great Employee Experiences To Create Great Customer Experiences (Forrester)

TJ Keitt writes a great blog on Customer Experiences. How are your employees engaging with your customers? Please leave a comment below.

You Need Great Employee Experiences To Create Great Customer Experiences

Posted by TJ Keitt on September 25, 2014

It’s easy to get swept up in the power of the digital age, where smart mobile devices and cloud services open the door for new and exciting ways to engage customers. We think a lot about how these technologies will create enticing customer experiences (CX), making these digital touchpoints the face of the brand. I admit, as a technology fan, I’m enamored with this idea. But I’m also someone who thinks a lot about technology and the workforce, so I was equally animated by a conversation I recently had with the head of a CX consultancy. He warned that businesses risk over rotating on technology, viewing their people as receding in importance in delivering satisfactory customer experiences. He went on to say that businesses that make this make do so at their own perilI agree.

More than three quarters of the information workforce — those using a computing device (e.g. PC, smartphone, tablet) at least one hour per day — interact with at least one customer as a routine part of their job. Over half of the workforce regularly interact with customers, partners, and customers. Are CX professionals thinking about the experiences these employees need as they think about customer needs? And — close to my heart as a tech guy — have they thought about what these neat digital tools can do for their employees, as they have about digital’s effect on customers?

Previously, we established that information workers require three broad freedoms: freedom to access and use information; freedom to interact with others as necessary; freedom to move when needed. In our new reportHow To Build A Technology Plan That Sustains Employee Engagement, we examine how employee satisfaction with the technologies that underlie these freedoms relates to positive employee behaviors. What this analysis netted us is the interesting picture you see below:

Our data analysis shows satisfaction with technologies that support data access, interactions and movement correlates with:

  • Independent problem solving. Employees able to identify and address client issueson their own narrow the time to resolution. And this ensures nagging customer issues don’t metastsize into full-blown customer experience breakdowns.
  • Awareness of how employee actions relation to the business’s success. If employees feel that there is a purpose to their work, then they are more inclined to take it seriously. Furthermore, they’re more likely toinvest their energy in fixing issues as they arise.
  • Employee retention. Turnover kills customer experience. Holding on to workers ensures continuity in customer experienceand the opportunity to continue to build on improvements. It also ensures that the company can maintain relationships workers form with their customers, business partners, and colleagues.
  • Employees’ willingness to advocate for the organization. Workers can help draw in new customers through recommendationsto family and friends. They can also identify qualified prospective employees when they recommend the company as an employer to that same social circle.

All of these look like great qualities to have in your workforce, right? Well, they don’t happen if you don’t link employee intention (get data, work with people, change context) with enabling tools (PCs, smartphones, tablets, applications) in a set of journeys that results in each worker meeting their personal goals. This argues for customer experience techniques being brought into the technology management organization. And it means that CX leaders and their technologist counterparts need to work together not only on creating compelling customer experiences, but also productive employee experiences that ensure workers can meet customer expectations.

This is an ongoing conversation, so I’m interested in hearing your thoughts. What do you think?


The “No” Repertoire: Essentialism Book Review

In the book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown, he talks about how to get more things done and it’s about how to get the right things done. Below is an excerpt about how to say “No” to nonessential things.

The “No” RepertoireEssentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less

Remember, Essentialists don’t say no just occasionally. It is a part of their regular repertoire. To consistently say no with grace, then, it helps to have a variety of responses to call upon. Below are eight responses you can put in your “no” repertoire.

  1. The awkward pause. Instead of being controlled by the threat of an awkward silence, own it. Use it as a tool. When a request comes to you (obviously this works only in person), just pause for a moment. Count to three before delivering your verdict. Or if you get a bit more bold, simply wait for the other person to fill the void.
  2. The soft “no” (or the “no but”). I recently received an e-mail inviting me to coffee. I replied: “I am consumed with writing my book right now) But I would love to get together once the book is finished. Let me know if we can get together towards the end of the summer.”

E-mail is also a good way to start practicing saying “no but” because it gives you the chance to draft and redraft your “no” to make it as graceful as possible. Plus, many people find that the distance of e-mail reduces the fear of awkwardness.

  1. “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” One leader I know found her time being hijacked by other people all day. A classic Nonessentialist, she was capable and smart and unable to say no, and as a result she soon became a “go to” person. People would run up to her and say, “Could you help with X project?” Meaning to be a good citizen, she said yes. But soon she felt burdened with all of these different agendas. Things changed for her when she learned to use a new phrase: “Let me check my calendar and get back to you.” It gave her the time to pause and reflect and ultimately reply that she was regretfully unavailable. It enabled her to take back control of her own decisions rather than be rushed into a “yes” when she was asked.
  2. Use e-mail bouncebacks. It is totally natural and expected to get an autoresponse when someone is traveling or out of the office. Really, this is the most socially acceptable “no” there is. People aren’t saying they don’t want to reply to your e-mail, they’re just saying they can’t get back to you for a period of time. So why limit these to vacations and holidays? When I was writing this book I set an e-mail bounceback with the subject line “In Monk Mode.” The e-mail said: “Dear Friends, I am currently working on a new book which has put enormous burdens on my time. Unfortunately, I am unable to respond in the manner I would like. For this, I apologize.-Greg.” And guess what? People seemed to adapt to my temporary absence and nonresponsiveness just fine.
  3. Say, “Yes. What should I deprioritize” Saying no to a senior leader at work is almost unthinkable, even laughable, for many people. However, when saying yes is going to compromise your ability to make the highest level of contribution to your work, it is also your obligation. In this case it is not only reasonable to say no, it is essential. One effective way to do that is to remind your superiors what you would be neglecting if you said yes and force them to grapple with the trade-off.

For example, if your manager comes to you and asks you to do X, you can respond with “Yes, I’m happy to make this the priority. Which of these other projects should I deprioritize to pay attention to this new project?” Or simply say, “I would want to do a great job, and given my other commitments I wouldn’t be able to do a job I was proud of if I took this on.”

I know a leader who received this response from a subordinate. There was no way he wanted to be responsible for disrupting this productive and organized employee, so he took the nonessential work project back and gave it to someone else who was less organized!

  1. Say it with humor. I recently was asked by a friend to join him in training for a marathon. My response was simple: “Nope!” He laughed a little and said, “Ah, you practice what you preach.” Just goes to show how useful it is to have a reputation as an Essentialist!
  2. Use the words “You are welcome to X. I am willing to y” For example, “You are welcome to borrow my car. I am willing to make sure the keys are here for you.” By this you are also saying, “I won’t be able to drive you.” You are saying what you will not do, but you are couching it in terms of what you are willing to do. This is a particularly good way to navigate a request you would like to support somewhat but cannot throw your full weight behind.

I particularly like this construct because it also expresses a respect for the other person’s ability to choose, as well as your own. It reminds both parties of the choices they have.

  1. “I can’t do it, but X might be interested.” It is tempting to think that our help is uniquely invaluable, but often people requesting something don’t really care if we’re the ones who help them-as long as they get the help.

Kay Krill, the CEO of Ann, Inc. (a.k.a. Ann Taylor and LOFT women’s clothing retailers), used to have a terrible time saying no to social invitations. As a result, she would end up at networking events she had no interest in attending. She would find herself going to office parties and regretting it the moment she got there.

Then one day one of her mentors came to her and told her that she had to learn to jettison the people and things of her life that just didn’t matter, and that doing so would allow her to put 100 percent of her energy into the things that had meaning for her. That advice liberated her. Now she is able to pick and choose. With practice, politely declining an invitation has become easy for her. Kay explains: “I say no very easily because I know what is important to me. I only wish that I learned how to do that earlier in my life,’?’

Saying no is its own leadership capability. It is not just a peripheral skill. As with any ability, we start with limited experience. We are novices at “no.” Then we learn a couple of basic techniques. We make mistakes. We learn from them. We develop more skills. We keep practicing. After a while we have a whole repertoire available at our disposal, and in time we have gained mastery of a type of social art form. We can handle almost any request from almost anybody with grace and dignity. Tom Friel, the former CEO of Heidrick & Struggles, once said to me, “We need to learn the slow ‘yes’ and the quick ‘no.”’


Journey Mapping: What Is It Good For? Absolutely Anything! – Forrester

Are you using Journey Mapping in your lumberyard? Deanna’s blog post gives insight why you should map your customers’ experience.


Journey Mapping: What Is It Good For? Absolutely Anything!

Posted by Deanna Laufer

I recently had the pleasure of facilitating three customer journey mapping workshops for clients. For me, the most rewarding part of these workshops is when, all of a sudden, you see the light bulb go on for the participants. It can be the realization that their customer has to jump through an inordinate number of hoops to submit a simple service request or have to wait 5-10 days for repair. Or, when the workshop participants realize they have no idea what their customers are doing or thinking, but maybe they should.

Just as the light bulb moment can be different for each person, the insights they deem most valuable can vary, and include:

  • Ideas for designing future-state experiences. A group of participants from a retailer created a future-state journey map illustrating how customers could sign up for a credit card and rewards program while shopping in store. They identified scenarios for how store associates could approach customers with credit card offers without seeming intrusive, as well as appropriate opportunities to follow up with customers by email or mobile app if they chose not to enroll right away. These types of insights can then inform the design of the new credit card and rewards experience.
  • A sense of empathy for the customer. We ask workshop participants within the same organization to wear name tags because, not only do we not know them, but most of the time they don’t know each other. In one workshop, the organization was siloed, as most are, and each participant owned their own small functional part of the customer journey. But no one had insight into or ownership of the entire process. When brought together to analyze the health of the end-to-end journey, participants walked away with a shared understanding that what they were each doing individually wasn’t working for the customer as a whole.
  • A prioritization of initiatives that impact moments of truth.While plotting steps in the customer journey, groups surmised how they thought customers felt at each point – satisfied, frustrated, WTF (yes that’s an emotion often used). They also identified moments of truth – those points in the journey that were critical or decisive for the customer in some way. Then, after brainstorming ways to improve the customer’s experience, they “starred” those ideas that aligned to moments of truth, and singled them out as those that could have the biggest impact on how customers felt about that journey.


After attending all these workshops, I had my own aha moment, cheesy as it sounds, when I realized that part of the reason every participant comes away from the same workshop with a different perspective is because there are so many uses and applications for journey maps.

My colleague, Tony Costa, wrote about just this topic a few months ago in his popular report, Journey Mapping Best Practices, which details six core activities – from designing experiences, to prioritizing and measuring CX initiatives, to informing the broader business agenda – for which CX pros can use journey maps.


HT customer journey map

HT customer journey map


Read More:

Using Customer Journey Maps to Improve Customer Experience

Book Reveiw: How Not to Be Wrong

The author, Jordan Ellenberg has written an intense and interesting book: How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking. Do you think you’ll ever stop using mathematics? Below is an excerpt.

When am I Going to Use This?How Not to Be Wrong

The lessons of mathematics are simple ones and there are no numbers in them: that there is structure in the world; that we can hope to understand some of it and not just gape at what our senses present to us; that our intuition is stronger with a formal exoskeleton than without one. And that mathematical certainty is one thing, the softer convictions we find attached to us in everyday life another, and we should keep track of the difference if we can.

Every time you observe that more of a good thing is not always better; or you remember that improbable things happen a lot, given enough chances, and resist the lure of the Baltimore stockbroker; or you make a decision based not just on the most likely future, but on the cloud of all possible futures, with attention to which ones are likely and which ones are not; or you let go of the idea that the beliefs of groups should be subject to the same rules as beliefs of individuals; or, simply, you find that cognitive sweet spot where you can let your intuition run wild on the network of tracks formal reasoning makes for it; without writing down an equation or drawing a graph, you are doing mathematics, the extension of common sense by other means. When are you going to use it? You’ve been using mathematics since you were born and you’ll probably never stop. Use it well.