Communication agility

Being an effective communicator is critical for being successful in today’s world. Gone are the days where we lived alone on our farms – everything is interconnected today and requires collaboration and with that, effective communication.

The key to such effective communication is to know how to communicate when. We talked about making the content of your communications relevant before – now let’s talk about the tools of communication.

It’s imperative to have a diverse portfolio of such tools at your hands and to know how and when to use them. Don’t be a one-trick pony! Instead, you need to pick and choose the best method of communication deliberately based on the circumstances and on what you want to achieve.

Not all communication mechanisms are equal. Each one of them works marvelously in certain situations, and fails miserably in others. For example chat and texting is effective in ‘interrupting’ someone for urgent information that needs to be acted upon right now. Do it to me for too many times in non-urgent situations and you will be muted for good. Similarly, email is great to asynchronous communications that require thought and time. However, don’t expect me to respond to an email within the hour.

Don’t be a one-trick pony. Have a rich toolbox and know which tool to use when.

You can ask yourself three questions to determine the best communication method for a given situation:

What does the topic require?

Is my request urgent or is there some time to get an answer? Do I need synchronous (right now) or asynchronous (when the other person has time) communication? Must I interrupt the other person, or can I let them answer at their leisure? Does the topic need explanation?

If your topic is not urgent, grant the other person the control over when they want to answer. Let them plan their time and set proper expectation by sending your request or information over email.

If on the other hand you need to solve an urgent matter and time is off the essence, use a more real-time and synchronous communication channel like chat, text, or a phone call. What channel that should be depends on your organization’s culture. However use them sparsely and only if needed. Synchronous real-time communication interrupts the other person, disrupts whatever they were focused on at the time. Use it sparsely or you will piss them off over time.

Lastly, if your topic requires more explanation, it is likely better to talk in person. Schedule a meeting to discuss the topic in detail. If it is urgent, send a chat first and ask for a good time to schedule a meeting in short time.

What best serves the relationship?

Know the communication preference of your partner. If they are more introverted they will prefer written communication, if they are more extroverted they will appreciate the opportunity to meet and talk. Try to accommodate that preference if you can – sometimes that might require you to give up your preference.

Quick information and updates can be well served over email, which also saves time for all involved parties.

Building relationship and a foundation for partnering can only be done in person.

Know your tools and use them wisely!

  • Email – Great for asynchronous information sharing that saves time for everyone.
  • Chat/phone call – Interruptive but ensures quick attention and turnaround. It disrupts the other persons so use it wisely!
  • Meeting/video conference – Great for more complex discussions and building relationship. Plan ahead and respect times that are already blocked for the other person.

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Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Four ounces of force

Effective negotiations and problem/conflict solving are all about gently guiding instead of butting heads. That is unless you are at a car dealership, in which case butting heads without flinching is the strategy to go.

So how can you gently guide while gaining a deeper understanding along the way? You need to seek for common purpose and goals!

Finding common purpose and goals

It all starts with listening actively, trying to understand what the other party wants to achieve and what motivates and drives them. You must seek to understand their goals and purpose. Likewise, you need to explain your motivations, goals, and reasons-why so that the other party knows where you are coming from and what you are trying to achieve.

Chances are that you will need to take the active part for both sides – seeking to understand the other party and making yourself understood. Admittedly it is a lot of work, but the return is well worth the investment!

Listen to understand. Explain to be understood.

By listening actively, you will find common ground, shared goals, and win-win opportunities that will reveal a shared path forward. Furthermore, working together with your negotiation partner, you will find a solution that is better than what either of you had thought of in the first place.

That is the ideal scenario and hopefully how the majority of your negotiations will go.

But what if the other party doesn’t want to play ball, listen actively, and seek common ground? What if they are actively or passively aggressive? Well, then it’s time for Plan B.

Redirect their energy

Instead of trying to work against their energy – butting heads – lead it in a direction that will guide their momentum where you want it to be. Redirect them. If they want to jump on you, make sure they will instead propel themselves in the place where you want them to be.

There is an exercise in Tai Chi in which you learn to control your partner and redirect his energy (and attack) while never exerting any more than four ounces of force. It’s called Pushing hands, and it’s all about sensing, perceiving, and then connecting and gently redirecting. It sounds too good to be true, but in reality, it is just a matter of awareness and proper guidance at critical moments of a developing move.

The same can be said for artful negotiations or even playing chess (or anything else that requires strategy). You want to gently and proactively set the playing field such that the desired outcome will inevitably be reached while avoiding unnecessary blood baths. You want to be sensitive to developing strategies and moves and redirect them the desired way before they build up momentum.

A master works through soft redirection instead of aggressive confrontation.

In negotiations, you can do this by building a funnel of facts, evidence, reasoning, and logical conclusions that eventually doesn’t leave any other reasonable outcome than the one you desired to achieve. You set guardrails (for example, “These are the goals, do you agree?”, “Here are all constraints that I know of, are there any others?”) and let them narrow in through the negotiations, just like a funnel (for example, “Since we already agreed on A and B, C must be true as well. Am I missing something here?”). Know what outcome you want to achieve, and make sure the funnel points squarely to that outcome – plan ahead how you will start from a wide opening while deliberately narrowing down as you go.

Create a glide path that the other part can – and eventually must – follow.

The more you argue, the weaker your position will get

Also, keep in mind that the one who speaks the most usually has the weakest points. If we are insecure, we talk a lot and try to explain something we don’t fully believe in ourselves. If we are confident, we will make short and pointed statements. Others will pick on that. A sure-fire way to spot a lie is if someone explains their point with way too much detail. Humans are subconsciously tuned-in to those signals.

The shorter, crisper, and more pointed your responses are, the more you strengthen your position and credibility.

Shorter is almost always better – the more you talk and explain, the weaker your point, perception, and position. Of course, you can overdo this, and there is a point where your response lacks the necessary depth to be convincing. However, realistically only a few of us need to worry about that end of the spectrum. Most of us talk way too much and listen way too little.

Keep your comments short and to the point. Make every word matter and serve your goal. Let the other party talk while you lead with questions and build your funnel.

Don’t waste all your energy – let THEM run tired.

At the same time, you need to be persistent – dropping the ball or avoiding the discussion never buys you anything. Put the crisp facts out there, ask guiding questions, build your funnel, and pull the trigger when the other party has maneuvered themselves in the corner where you wanted them, and the outcome is inevitable.

Back to Tai Chi:

Only use four ounces of force. Put them in the right places at the right time and redirect the other person’s energy where you want it to be. You will make it impossible for the other person to break out of your lead.


Did you like this post? Want to read more? Check out our newest book!

Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Strategic thinking – You need to drop your established thought models!

thik big

How do you change your mindset from thinking tactical to approaching challenges from a strategic perspective? Heck, what is the difference between the two to begin with?

If you think tactically, you are focused on the next small step from where you are now. You think about the next natural thing to do. Indeed, very often, that’s exactly what you need to do: “do the next right thing” (from Frozen 2 for all of you who have little kids). The challenge is that while you progress with that approach, it will not always be in the direction you should go. You move forward, but not with a clear target in mind.

Thinking strategically turns that model around as it starts from where you want to be in the future. It doesn’t concern itself with the immediate next step but looks at the bigger picture and the more distant future. Strategic thinking asks what that ideal future would look like. Then, and only then, it goes into figuring out how you could get there.

Tactical thinking is our natural tendency – after all, our ancestors had to be much more occupied with finding their next meal than with planning five years ahead. Strategic thinking started as they settled down and needed to think ahead to the fall harvest. It expanded the opportunities they were presented with.

If you want to have true impact, you need to think strategically. Fluency between tactical and strategic thinking makes you a leader.

To think strategically, you need to change your thought models in these three ways:

Always start with the ‘why’ – Before you can even get into what the ideal end state should be, you need to get clarity on what you want to achieve. WHY are you doing this? What is the change you want to drive and why? How is the new situation different, and why does that matter? Understand your WHY, and you will know where you need to go!

Think big and forget what you currently know – Very often, we hold ourselves back by what we know or what we think we know. We subconsciously hold to constraints that are often not real but just assumed. We have solutions in mind that limit how creatively we entertain out-of-the-box approaches. We are afraid of the challenges of taking on big scary goals, and with that, we unconsciously aim a lot lower than we should. Forget about all of those – think about what the end state looks like in an ideal world. If you had no constraints at all, what would you work towards?

Incremental thinking – The last and hardest mindset shift is to let go of incremental thinking. This is super hard. At Amazon, it took me about a year to train new – highly educated – employees to make that mental leap. We all tend to “think forward” from what we have. What is the next set of improvements to the toolset we currently use? What are the next adaptations to the process? While this is nice and good for continuous improvement efforts, it precludes disruptive changes – and disruptive changes are what really moves you ahead. You must avoid incremental thinking as the actual new ideal end-state might require you to give up what you currently have.

Don’t start from what you have. Start from where you want to be and then figure out how you could get there.

Thinking strategically, or “thinking big” is one of my three favorite leadership principles at the core of Amazon’s approach to challenges and opportunities. Here is how the official definition goes:

Think Big
Thinking small is a self-fulfilling prophecy. Leaders create and communicate a bold direction that inspires results. They think differently and look around corners for ways to serve customers.


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Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Building strong relationships – Accountability matters

If you want to build strong relationships with your partners, you need to build trust. Trust comes from being open and honest. It also comes from saying what you’re going to do and then following through on your promise. Every time!

If you have strong relationships and trust, the sky is the limit to what you can achieve. If you don’t have that basis, you will forever be the lone warrior and limited by what you as an individual can do.

Strong relationships require trust. Trust requires accountability.

Value your partner

Value your partner the same way you would like to be valued. If you need them to do something for you, explain why it’s important. Give real deadlines when you need something back, not sandbagged ones that will make life more comfortable on your end but put the other person under unnecessary pressure.

Assume maturity in their planning and hold them accountable against their promises.

Own your promises

On the flip side, your partners need to be able to trust the promises you have made. Don’t let things slip, don’t have them check back in and remind you of something you said you would do.

Close the loop on any actions you have. Do what you said you would do. Deliver in time and with the expected high quality.

Earning trust is one of my three favorite Amazon leadership principles. Here is how the official definition goes – however, in my opinion, it misses the accountability piece:

Earn Trust

Leaders listen attentively, speak candidly, and treat others respectfully. They are vocally self-critical, even when doing so is awkward or embarrassing. Leaders do not believe their or their team’s body odor smells of perfume. They benchmark themselves and their teams against the best.

Here’s a simple framework to ensure accountability

Establishing ownership

  1. If you need something – If you need something, establish explicit ownership. Get an explicit commitment. There is no half-commitment. Ownership is digital – either you own it, or you don’t.
  2. If you are asked to do something – If you are asked to do something, usually commitment is assumed. If that assumption is wrong, you must explicitly say NO. It can be ok to deprioritize or postpone something, but you have to SAY it explicitly to the requestor.
  3. Pretending ignorance doesn’t give you a free pass – Haven’t seen a task or request is not a good excuse if you did get the information. Pretending not to see something is not ok.

Following through on ownership

  1. Owning means owning – You own it, you do it, you fix it. Don’t just drop a task last minute because you have overcommitted yourself. Once you own something and realize that you cannot deliver it, YOU are responsible for finding a way to get it delivered, not the person who has asked you in the first place.
  2. Accountability is a part of the performance – Work is not a place where you make promises and then fail to meet them. When you miss something once for good reasons, people will work around it. When you miss your promises repeatedly, then you will lose trust and support. You will run into performance problems.
  3. If you don’t get support, escalate effectively – If a deliverable from someone else holds you back, you need to escalate quickly. Waiting for someone else but not letting anyone know is not a good reason for not delivering. If you need something, say it right away!

The flip side of the accountability expectation

Some organizations drive themselves into a culture of non-accountability. They do that by frequently changing priorities and not following through on things that previously have been the most critical thing to do.

If priorities change all the time, employees cannot be accountable. Period. Employees learn this quickly and resort to ignoring tasks and promises unless they serve their own needs. After an employee has missed their promises often enough and without consequence (because the leader’s mindset has moved to the next shiny object), they will have learned that accountability doesn’t matter and that they can’t control their ability to deliver what the leader wants anyway.

If requests become too much, too unpredictable, or too random, people will disengage and stop owning things. They will lose their sense of connection and accountability

If you ask for something, you need to follow through, and you must value the deliverables you get back and take action on them. If priorities do change, tell the people who are working on tasks for you about the change early enough so that they don’t waste their time and energy.


Did you like this post? Want to read more? Check out our newest book!

Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Developing mechanisms and turning them into culture

Have you ever been in a situation where you discovered a problem, found the root cause after some investigation, determined corrective actions, and fixed the issue – only to see the same or a similar problem creep up again a few weeks later?

What happened? You fixed the problem, but you didn’t make the learning and fix a part of your operations moving forward. It’s all too easy to get distracted by the next issue at hand and thus not turning the fix or change into sustained improvement.

Create a mechanism

The way to make a change sustained is to create a mechanism.

Mechanisms can be many things: an updated process description, a recurring reminder on your calendar, a check-in meeting cadence with set agenda topics, or a scheduled report that you review on a regular basis.

The important common quality of all of those is that they remind you to think about the previous problem, its fix, and future prevention on a regular basis. Each of those mechanisms ingrains the learning into your operational processes and memory. They make it stick.

For example, if you want to make sure that system changes that impact multiple teams are reliably communicated to everyone, you cannot just send out an email to all groups and tell them to please do so in the future. That email will stick in their memory for about a week – if you are lucky. Instead, if you have a recurring meeting with that stakeholder group, you should make it a standing agenda item for those meetings to check for any planned changes that need to be communicated. That way, you transformed the one-off issue, fix, and learning into a repeatable process. You change the operations – and eventually the thinking – of the team.

If you want something to stick, you must develop a mechanism for it.

From mechanisms to culture

While a mechanism will help you achieve the desired outcome, it is not where you want to end up.

Mechanisms ensure that things get done the right way. However, they are also crutches for doing the right thing. Mechanisms require you to handhold and micromanage a specific behavior because it is not yet the natural behavior of the group.

You really want to achieve that the behavior becomes natural for the group and doesn’t need constant reminder through the mechanism. You want to achieve culture change.

Culture doesn’t change because you tell it to – culture changes through repetition, role modeling, and shared expectations. However, mechanisms can help you change the culture as they provide repetition (muscle memory) and remind everyone that a certain behavior is important (expectation setting). Over time mechanisms can evolve into culture.

A word of caution: think carefully about what your organizational priorities are and what you want to focus on. If everything becomes a mechanism, nothing matters at all. I’ve been in organizations where we had so many mechanisms that everyone lost track. In the end, none of them mattered, and their utility evaporated.

If you never make it to culture change, if you don’t change thinking, if you don’t role model the right behavior, you will spend a lot of time and energy to make sure the right things happen (aka micro-management).

Culture is the end goal. Mechanisms only compensate for culture.


Did you like this post? Want to read more? Check out our newest book!

Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Do what you do really well

astery

I remember how performance discussions back in the days always focused on one’s “development opportunities”, which was HR-code for weaknesses. For many organizations, they still do.

Focusing on your weaknesses and trying to overcome them has long been the main career development advice. If you still get (only) that kind of coaching, walk away!

Don’t get me wrong, we all have areas to improve, and we should not ignore those. Life is about learning, growing, and overcoming challenges. However, if your weaknesses are your focus, you will not achieve your full potential. Not even close.

You will get much further and be more impactful if you focus on your strengths (as more recent research shows).

Do what you do really well and do more of it!

It is all about what YOU can bring to the table for your team and organization. It’s the special YOU, the outstanding strengths you provide that will make a difference, not your attempt to bring your weaknesses slightly above average.

Teams thrive on diversity, and diversity comes from everyone doing what they do best, not from trying to do the same.

Of course, there are expectations that we all need to meet, and there is a set of soft and hard skills that are required for the work we do. You won’t get away with shining at a few things while being crappy at everything else. That’s not what I’m saying.

However, instead of trying to push the things that don’t come naturally to you above the required average, you should focus on becoming exceptional at the things that you are uniquely talented for. And then, you need to find more opportunities to bring those exceptional talents to the benefit of your organization.

Do what you do really well and do more of it!

What can you bring to your team and organization more and better than anyone else?

Find your special strengths. Versatility is just another word for average.

To differentiate yourself and have the greatest impact, you need to find your unique talents, figure out how they translate into maximum value for the organization, and grow them into areas of ownership for yourself.

Use your unique strengths as a way to position yourself, gain authority, take ownership, and with that, reach autonomy. Everyone has unique strengths that differentiate them from everyone else.

What defines YOU? What can YOU bring to the team better than anyone else?

Versatility, the ability to do a decent job at anything, is great as a secondary trait, but not as the primary thing that defines you. You want to be known as the expert for something, rather than the “Jack of all trades but master of none”. Janitors are versatile – everyone else should be hard to replace because of their unique profile and capabilities.

Don’t focus on your weaknesses – build on your strengths!


Did you like this post? Want to read more? Check out our newest book!

Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Don’t get stuck in your plan

checkmate-1511866_1920

After talking about scenario planning last week, I will now talk about the need to be willing to let go of your plans at a moment’s notice. More specifically, while your overall strategy will likely persist, I bet you that your tactics will need to adapt as you go from planning and envisioning to execution and reality check (or “WTSHTF” as they say).

Have a plan but don’t get stuck in it.

Having a plan is critical. You have to start somewhere. It’s even better if you thought about multiple different scenarios and have plans for each of them. Still, reality will be different from what you envisioned, and your plans need to adjust – right away and in realtime.

“No plan survives first contact with the enemy.” – Helmuth von Moltke (1800-1891)

That is not to say that one should not plan. As a matter of fact, special forces are known for locking themselves into a room before a mission and then meticulously planning out for any scenario and complication they can possibly imagine. However, when it’s go-time, they must modify their plans, adjust, or completely give them up. They get new data, situations change, and they must improvise on the spot. Business consultants would say that they need to be “agile”.

The other day I played chess with our 9-year-old son. He had set a ‘trap’ and waited for me to go into it. In fact, he waited for the whole game while I took his other figures off the board one by one and finally forced him to give up. It wasn’t that his plan was bad – he just didn’t realize that the situation changed. Insisting on his initial assumption and plan got him from a promising position to a hopeless one.

Have a plan, but keep your mind open for what happens, be flexible, adapt. Don’t try to enforce your plan at all costs. – Plan thoroughly, and then be flexible.

While you should start with a plan, you need to keep your mind open to recognize change and adapt or discard your plan if needed.

Traditional martial arts pushes that notion to the extreme, where mastery means not thinking about what you’re doing but just letting it happen, reacting naturally. In martial arts, the goal is to have so much training in advance (i.e., scenario planning and practicing) that reactions in challenging situations become intuitive, and you don’t need or even want a preconceived plan. You perceive with a relaxed mind and react to the inputs you will get.

Build a plan, play scenarios through in your head, draw confidence that you have answers for many of the possible challenges. Then stop ruminating and start executing. Don’t try to enforce your plan – it would break. Observe what’s happening, see what changes, and do what’s needed.

Bruce Lee would say: “Be like water.”


Did you like this post? Want to read more? Check out our newest book!

Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

The difference between scenario planning and worrying about the future

We live in times of constant change. Things that were true and known yesterday aren’t any longer, and the future often holds too many unknowns to plan for what’s coming confidently.

That constant change can cause a feeling of uncertainty and even anxiety. However, I prefer to see changes as opportunities. Change means that current approaches are being revisited. It means uncertainty, but it also brings the opportunity to get rid of old structures and behaviors that didn’t work as well as we thought.

How we approach change is the key to how we perceive it and how it impacts us.

First of all, we need to ensure that the majority of our mental energy is spent in the now, not the tomorrow or yesterday. What-if and what-could-have-been musings are only of value if we use them as learning opportunities for what we are doing right now. Otherwise, they quickly become wasted energy and distractions.

Now, as we think about coming changes and uncertainties (e.g., political developments, potential upcoming regulations, organizational changes), it is essential to avoid dwelling and being stuck in the phase of uncertainty and anxiety. We can guess endlessly as to what a specific change might mean for us. We won’t know until the dominos fall, and things get in motion. All along, we could have spent a lot of time feeling helpless and miserable until that decision day comes.

A much more productive approach is scenario planning: think about what the possible (plausible) outcomes could be, what those would mean for you, and what actions you would take. Think through your plan, then put it away until you need it and focus on the NOW again.

The point of scenario planning is to have done the mental homework and put it then away and not be stuck in the future what-ifs. Don’t be the deer in the headlights.

List possible scenarios – The starting point for scenario planning is to list all likely future outcomes. Given a particular unknown, what could happen, and what would the new circumstance be once the dice fell? What are the different options for how a situation could shake out? Try to make a complete list of all outcomes that are likely (not all that could be, or you will never stop adding to your list). Three to five possible scenarios usually is a good number.

Understand the trigger signals – Think about the trigger signal for each scenario. How would you know as early as possible that you are entering one scenario (expected outcome) rather than the other? Early signaling is the critical piece. Once the dice have fallen, you want to make sure you will adapt to the new situation as swiftly as possible.

Know your actions – Think through your best course of action for each scenario. When the chips fall, you don’t want to start thinking about what you will do next. Rather you want to have a plan ready that you can just pull out the drawer as soon as you see one of your early trigger signals show up. Be ready, have plans and actions, and then let go again and turn your attention to the now. Your future plans are only valuable in the future, not the now. If you get stuck in future what-if plans, you lose out on today’s opportunities.

Lay the groundwork (if needed) – If your plans require any groundwork to be laid and the investment is not too high, do it ahead of time. Be ready as much as you can, but find the right tradeoff between investing in things that might never happen and opportunities that you missed because you weren’t ready for them. Finding the right balance on this is the tricky part.

Move back to now – Don’t get stuck in scenario planning and future what-ifs!! Every minute you spend on dwelling in the future is a minute you have missed out on actual current opportunities. If you spend your time getting ready for the future, you will do a crappy job being successful in the now. Remember, only the now and today is what really matters.

Scenario planning allows you to mind-game and strategize an uncertain future that might scare you. Use it for that and do it to the point where you have a decent set of plans. Then stop dwelling in the future and move back to the now and here. That is the true value of scenario planning. Also, remember that no plan survives first contact with reality – more about that next week…

Get your ducks in a row and your dominos lined up. Then move back to the here and now and stop dwelling in future what-ifs. Don’t let potential future circumstances hold you back from what you can achieve TODAY!


Did you like this post? Want to read more? Check out our newest book!

Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.

Developing an Entrepreneurial mindset

‘Entrepreneurial mindset’ is one of those terms that people like to throw around these days. But what does it actually mean? Does it only apply to startups and Silicon Valley companies, or is it something we all should care about?

The short answer is that we ALL should care about it and strive to adopt an entrepreneurial mindset in everything we do. In my mind, ‘entrepreneurial mindset’ or entrepreneurial thinking means that we 1) care personally and deeply about what we’re doing, 2) take a forward-looking and proactive approach to thinking through future challenges and opportunities, and 3) feel committed to do what needs to get done, whether someone tells us to or not.

I recently listened to some courses on LinkedIn that suggested you should revisit your job description regularly to ensure that you are doing what is expected from you and thus advance your career. I think that’s terrible advice! It might work for highly repetitive jobs (think retail checkout person), but not for the majority of jobs we have today and even less for the future’s work requirements. Most job descriptions are written without a complete picture of what needs to be done (yes, managers make mistakes), and even if they were perfect, times and demands change way too fast to keep up with them.

If you want to achieve greatness, you need to do what needs to get done. Not what someone has told you to do. Sometimes you even have to ignore what others are telling you.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that you can ignore your core job responsibilities. Not by a long stretch. What it means is that following those gets you to mediocracy. To be great, you need to go beyond expected and documented tasks and develop your own sense of what matters and what needs to get done.

To be great means to take ownership, to think critically, to propose what needs to get done, and to think beyond what your manager understands – after all, you know your space better than anyone else. To be great means to look at your work as your own business that you want to make successful and exceptional. To be great means taking the entrepreneurial perspective.

Don’t wait for others to tell you what to do. Look at your work as your personal business. Decide what needs to get done (and what doesn’t). Take control!

I saw many of those exceptional behaviors as people stepped up and thought out of the box to deal with COVID. Keep up that mindset, and it will serve you well regardless of the circumstances you find yourself in.


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Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

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Be intentional!

Too much on your plate? Feeling busy and overwhelmed? Getting nowhere fast?

It might be a good time to pause, take a deep breath, rethink what’s a top priority and what isn’t. It might be a good time to become more intentional about how you spend your time and energy and what you pay attention to.

It’s all too easy to add stuff to your plate (or get it added by someone else). We start to get busy, and the busier we get, the more we focus on ‘getting stuff done’, rather than thinking about what outcomes we want to achieve and how we can best get there. The more we get into that ‘busyness’, the less time we have to stop, pause, think, and the more ‘normal’ the tactical busyness feels. Ever noticed when you come back from a vacation and you are so much more organized and focused, only to fall back to seemingly random busy-work after a week or two? That’s exactly what I’m talking about.

Heck, it might even give us comfort and validation to ‘be busy’. However, busyness is not the same as impact. Busyness is not the same as achievement. Busyness is not the same as providing value. It’s just busyness, nothing else. If you want to make a change, if you want to make ’a dent in the universe’ as the silicon valley types like to say, you need to be intentional about where and how you invest yourself. Busyness is not a value. It’s a cost. Outcome and impact are the values.

Don’t be busy, be impactful!

So how do you get more intentional? Start with gaining clarity on what outcomes you want to achieve and what actions will be most impactful to get there. Then invest your time intentionally in those outcomes and actions. Don’t just go with the flow.

Here are some examples:

Meetings – Decide if a meeting provides value to what you want to achieve and if you can provide value to the meeting and group. Then go or don’t go. If you go, you must make it worth your time and everyone else’s time. Don’t just hang around in the meeting. Don’t multi-task – it doesn’t work anyway. Turn your webcam on for virtual meetings. Be there and engage. If you don’t feel the meeting is important to you, better invest your time in something else and avoid dragging down the energy of the whole group.

Tasks and emails – When you go through tasks and emails, force yourself to be focused. Limit the time you have available for those tasks. You will see that allotting a limited amount of time to getting something done will make you more focused, more efficient, and happier. It will also avoid that you keep working on something beyond the point of diminishing returns (remember the 80:20 rule). Give yourself a challenging time limit, and then force yourself to get all planned work done in the allocated time. Don’t allow any distractions – single-task!

Working after hours – Sometimes we need to get something done in time for a deadline, and work will bleed into the evening or weekend. Those should be the very rare exceptions, though. Be aware of and intentional about those exceptions. Know why you make them if you decide to make them. Don’t let working in the evening become a habit just because you did it the previous evening. It’s easy to get sucked into bad habits if you don’t observe closely what you’re doing. Today there’s a lot of excitement about being always connected, about moving in and out of work and private times, and blended models. I may be old-school, but I don’t believe in that. If you take your work home and don’t set boundaries, you disservice yourself and your loved ones. Be fully at work when you’re at work, and forget all about work when you’re not!

Downtime – This is so critical for our balanced well-being! Life is a marathon, not a sprint. Be conscious and intentional about taking downtimes. Plan them, appreciate them, and protect them. Don’t feel bad for not doing anything (‘do nothing days’ are a real thing). However, don’t waste your downtimes either. Don’t get lost in browsing the web or playing video games. There is a huge difference between planned downtime, or me-time, and mindless procrastination. Don’t get me wrong, if you like videogames, that’s awesome. Enjoy them for the time period that you have decided to spend on them. However, don’t find yourself looking at your clock, wondering where the time has gone, and feeling guilty about it. Being intentional avoids feeling guilty.

Family and friends – Put that smartphone down! Tug away your work problems! Listen, share and engage! Don’t let anything distract you from paying attention to your loved ones during the time you spend with them. It might be annoying at times (yes, let’s be honest, distractions from our kids can be annoying), it might go against your planned task, but you won’t’ regret it in the long run. The number one wish of people in nursing homes is to have spent more time with loved ones. Having gotten more tasks done never comes up in those conversations.

Be intentional about what you do and how you spent your time. You will have more impact, and you will be happier.


Did you like this post? Want to read more? Check out our newest book!

Thriving in High-Pressure Environments
Lessons from Amazon, a global pandemic, and other crazy times
By Alfons and Ulrike Staerk
ISBN 9798718017663

Find it on Amazon: PaperbackKindle

If you like what you’re reading, please consider leaving a review on Amazon. If you don’t like it, please tell us what we can do better the next time. As self-published authors we don’t have the marketing power of big publishing houses. We rely on word of mouth endorsements through reader reviews.