Become Spontaneous in Three Days. Guaranteed.

Posted by jlubans on February 26, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Not off to a good start.

Mark Twain is quoted as saying “it usually takes me three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”
Mr. Twain’s drollery is apt. Impromptu, according to Merriam-Webster means something “made, done, or formed on or as if on the spur of the moment.” In other words, spontaneous, unrehearsed.
Most of us fear public speaking. Worse, we fear being asked to deliver impromptu remarks. Given a choice between being caged up with a dozen rats or having to talk off the cuff to a dozen people, I’d take the cage.
Once, when I was a job candidate, I was asked to talk about the issues in our industry. This “request” came from the man who would be my boss were I to get the job and he made it as we entered a full staff meeting. “You wouldn’t mind would you?” he asked.
While I did get off a one liner - re how the stock market report was on the local paper’s comics page – I managed to cobble together a few random thoughts. Kind of like the young lady depicted above.
I did wonder why the boss waylaid me that way. Perhaps so I could display how well organized my mind was.
If anything my remarks showed a certain creative disorganization reminding me of the way I compose written essays.
First I sketch out rough notes and ideas, many irrelevant; second, I edit, add, delete, elaborate concepts and ideas and, thirdly I begin to write a first written draft which I will go over and reflect upon before finishing. It's a messy highly personal process, not something ready for prime time, as they say.
I did not get the job but that was more than OK since I had lost interest and had reservations about this boss. I assume leaders who want people who can “think on their feet” would be OK with followers who can organize clichés and unoriginal ideas into a coherent, yet uninspired statement of issues.
I know of only a few peers who, when asked to, could actually hold forth originally and coherently for 20 or more minutes.
In the spirit of Mark Twain, The Wall Street Journal advises the ambitious among us to be prepared, like a Boy Scout, for the inevitable request for impromptu remarks.
How do you prepare? Figure out what you might be asked and then rehearse a focused answer. Expect to be asked “What do you believe are the most important challenges for us coming up and what would you do about them?”
Have that impromptu talk in your pocket.
According to the WSJ you should have a brief structure in mind when you are asked for off the cuff remarks. “One approach is to state the problem, describe the solution and summarize the benefits. Or, frame your thoughts with the 3 Whats: what, so what, now what?” Create a mental road map — stating the issue or topic, explaining why it matters and laying out next steps.
The 3 Whats are a way to ask yourself questions and to answer them in your remarks.
Be sure, we are told, to express how delighted you are to have the opportunity to talk with this group. Tell them that the sweat on your brow and your knocking knees are signs of excitement, not of anxiety.
In my alluded to interview, I should have remarked that my wide, nervous grin was a sign of how honored I was to be among such an esteemed group.
Sure!
Better, if I can remember to do it, is to turn the tables on the group. Asking them for input on what the issues are can be a useful way to show yourself as a collaborative person, as someone who listens and wants to hear, as someone who involves others in his thinking. Best of all, start a conversation and you may be amazed at how much competent people enjoy being asked for their views.
What I should have done in my interview was to return the favor to the boss. After presenting an array of issues, I should have asked the big cheese for his thoughts; does he have areas that need special emphasis?
Yes, you may embarrass the boss, but then again that person will get the message you know what he was doing by putting you on the spot.
If you believe you have truly been ambushed, well, why would you want to work for an organization or an individual who behaves that way?
Maybe you’ve gotten a sneak preview on how this boss treats people. Interviews go two ways. It’s not just you. You are interviewing the organization and its people.

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My book, Fables for Leaders is only a click away:


Also, My 2010 democratic workplace book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

Innovative Performance Evaluation, the Beer Wheel

Posted by jlubans on February 15, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: Beer Performance Appraisal Wheel

Recently, while touring the Deschutes Brewery in Bend, Oregon, our guide pointed out the beer tasting wheel used by a 40 member panel – drawn from the staff – of tasters when rating (whether to sell or not) the various flavors produced by this around-the-clock craft brewery.
Daily, thousands of bottles and cans are filled, crated and shipped all over America's Pacific Northwest.
Daily, hundreds of kegs are trucked to bars and restaurants.
The tasting wheel reminded me of an organizational ritual that occurs around this time of year: the annual performance appraisal!
What if we gave supervisors (those doing the ratings) a wheel like this to describe what’s good or not so good about their direct reports. A form of crib sheet like used by teachers in preparing home reports on how Johnny is doing or not doing in school.
No, I am not suggesting a dittoing of the wheel’s terms, like the off-flavor “acetaldehyde” (green apples). Then again, maybe I am!
Surely we could borrow many of the terms to move away from the clichéd and meaningless and to enlarge upon our laconic rating scales: meets expectations (IOW, we have our eye on you, but it is not for promotion), exceeds expectations, far exceeds expectations (a self-actualized person!) and, at the bottom, does not meet expectations, ranging from a five point to ten point scale with liberal decimalization in-between depending on the fussiness of the organization’s culture.
First, a positive word about using those people doing the work in evaluating what they produce. Not long ago, beer assessments were left to designated tasters, those who specialize in quality control or maybe just the brew master. While these people still have an important role, the idea of enlarging the tasting pool makes perfect sense – it’s a form of letting go, a necessary step in leadership if competent people are to do their best job.
One of the earliest business essays on worker involvement in decision-making appeared in the Harvard Business Review as "How I Learned To Let My Workers Lead”. More a personal testament than one of HBRs patented survey articles with 50,000 participants, this essay is about one man’s decision to share decision-making in a sausage factory.
He let the workers taste the sausage; no longer was he the lone taster! According to him, everything got better. I can well believe it.
Back to the wheel;
I see using terms like these to describe staff and performance. My favorites are followed by an exclamation point.
Under TASTE – in the wheel - appears a sub category: “Mouthfeel”
Under that term there’s
Warming!
Carbonation (gassy or flat)
Astringent
Metallic
Mouth coating
Alkaline
Bitter!
Salty
Again, for TASTE, there’s “Oxidized” or “Stale”.
Descriptors include:
Moldy!
Leathery
Papery
Catty!
Under the broad term of ODOR, these terms apply:
Aromatic!
Nutty!
Cereal
Roasted
Phenolic (band aids)
Fatty
Sulfury.
Need to define aromatic? No problem:
Alcoholic
Solvent-like
Estery (another solvent-like off flavor)
Fruity!
Acetaldehyde
Floral!
Hoppy!
Use the terms that fit your high and low performers. Make up new ones. Give it a go.

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My book, Fables for Leaders is only a click away:


Also, My 2010 democratic workplace book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019

Phaedrus’ THE TREES UNDER THE PROTECTION OF THE GODS*

Posted by jlubans on February 07, 2019  •  Leave comment (0)

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Caption: An ancient olive tree in Sicily.

The Gods in days of yore made choice of such Trees as they wished to be under their protection.
The Oak pleased Jupiter, the Myrtle Venus, the Laurel Phœbus, the Pine Cybele, the lofty Poplar Hercules.
Minerva, wondering why they had chosen the barren ones, enquired the reason.
Jupiter answered: “That we may not seem to sell the honor for the fruit.” “Now, so heaven help me,” said she, “let any one say what he likes, but the Olive is more pleasing to me on account of its fruit.”
Then said the Father of the Gods and the Creator of men:
“O daughter, it is with justice that you are called wise by all; unless what we do is useful, vain is our glory.”

This little Fable admonishes us to do nothing that is not profitable.
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While there's much to be said
for the decorative, there’s as much or more for the productive. We need both what’s pleasing to the eye and what’s nourishing to the rest of the body.
While appearances have never been my strong suit, I do understand that when I’m meeting people for the first time, I should not let a mismatched pair of socks or a soup-stained tie give the wrong impression.
I knew one man who never altered his look: black leather jacket and jeans. And he smoked like the proverbial chimney.
No doubt an eye catcher and off putting to some, but what he offered was an unparalleled understanding of the Internet and where it might be going. I wonder how he is doing.

*Source: THE COMEDIES OF TERENCE AND THE FABLES OF PHÆDRUS.
TRANSLATED By HENRY THOMAS RILEY, B.A.
TO WHICH IS ADDED A METRICAL TRANSLATION OF PHÆDRUS,
By CHRISTOPHER SMART.
LONDON: GEORGE BELL & SONS, 1887.

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My book, Fables for Leaders is only a click away:


Also, My 2010 democratic workplace book, Leading from the Middle, is available at Amazon.

© Copyright John Lubans 2019