Follow Your Heart And Do What You Want

k4604027One of my favorite questions to ask participants in a team session is “What is the one thing you would do with your life if you didn’t have any other commitments?” The answers people give are very interesting as many say they want to give back. Recognizing that they are ‘privileged’ these individuals would want to use their skills, resources and time to give back to their community by helping educate children, helping poor women develop skills to build a livelihood or supporting hospitals in impoverished areas. Others have long standing dreams they were never able to fulfill. I met a Managing Director who always wanted to be a pilot, an HR Director who dreamed of being a pediatric doctor, a CEO who wanted to write a cookbook and a Finance Manager who wanted to be an anthropologist and publish his own coffee-table-photo-books that would cover his journeys.

These are all fantastic dreams and amazing insights into the souls of individuals. Of course the next tough question is always: If that is your dream, then why are you not pursuing it?

The reasons I get for not following ones dreams range from:

  • I don’t have the time
  • I am scared
  • I don’t know how to do it
  • I need to have a stable income to look after my financial commitments
  • My daughter is getting married in 5 years
  • It is too late now
  • I don’t know where to start
  • I can’t take the risk
  • It’s too difficult to do
  • What if I fail
  • I would let my parents down if I make this change and throw away the important position that I have created

All true. All these are good enough reasons not to follow your dreams…right?
So what to do? How can you follow your dreams right now without giving up everything you have worked for? I would suggest you:

1. Start By Taking Small Steps
As Dr. Gregory House, from the TV shows says; “Doing things changes things. Not doing things leaves things exactly as they were”. It is all about starting to approach things differently. So if you want to become a writer, start a blog or publish an e-book. If you want to become a musician, upload a video on YouTube and shamelessly promote it as much as you can. If you want to help educate people, associate yourself with an NGO and on Saturdays you can give back to the community by teaching underprivileged kids to read and write. If you always wanted to be a doctor, then take a first aid or CPR training class.

“Have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

2. Stay focused
Look at all the people that you admire in this world. What is the one thing they have in common? It’s their laser like clarity and focus on achieving their dream. Steve Jobs was not distracted by the million other things he could have sold, Mandela’s only focus was to bring down apartheid, Jake Welch’s sole aim was to make GE number 1 or 2 in every market.

It is all about knowing what you want and staying away from distractions. As they say, you know a company’s (or person’s) strategy on the basis of what they spend their time on. The same applies for achieving your dream. Spend time on one specific goal and stay away from the numerous distractions that come your way.

3. Persevere
The definition of perseverance is “to continue in a course of action, even in the face of difficulty or with little or no prospect of success.” Some steps in achieving your dream will lead to dead ends while others will get you closer to your goal. The only option you don’t have is to stop trying and give up. Don’t give up too easy…it’s your dream we are talking about!

– Paul Keijzer

You may also like:
Is Following Your Passion Overrated?
Do What You Love or Love What You Do

Advertisements

How To Make Brainstorming Much More Effective

brainstormingRecently I tried out a new approach to brainstorming. A couple of weeks ago I read an article discussing what is wrong with brainstorming, on Eric Barker’s blog; Barking Up The Wrong Tree. I adopted some of the learnings, experimented with them and found that it really worked! While no single method of approach is perfect, the results were significantly better than what I had seen before.

The way I implemented brainstorming techniques in the past was similar to the way Alex F. Osborn, known as the “father of brainstorming” invented it in 1958. Put people in a group together and collectively write as many individual ideas down as possible, whether they are crazy, funny, ridiculous, innovative or clever. Don’t criticize anything and allow people to make links and associations as they go along. When you have all the ideas on one list, bring them down to the best few and then expand on them. Sounds familiar?

More often than not, the problem with this approach is that the ideas that you get are either ‘spiked up’ versions of ideas that have gone around for ages or ideas so wild that they will never see the light of day.

So I decided to experiment and organized a brainstorming activity for a client in which they wanted to come up with new initiatives to grow their business, taking into account the new research findings that:

  • Smaller teams are more effective than larger teams (also see this article in HBR explaining that smaller, more homogenous, research groups are more effective per researcher)
  • Less is More
  • Criticizing and debating ideas will improve the quality of the idea

The brainstorming session was not only aimed at coming up with new ideas but also to translate those ideas into initial action plans. To do this we used the following 5 steps:

1. Individual Ideas
The night before the brainstorming session, every participant was briefed on the objective of the next day (to come up with innovative ideas to grow business). Each individual was requested to come up with one, two or maximum three ideas that he / she thought would grow their business. The next day each participant was given a flip chart in which they had to put down their ideas by answering three questions (1) What is the problem you are trying to solve? (2) What is your proposed solution? and (3) How will it work?

2. Share Judge and Select
Then, seated in groups of 5, each individual was asked to present his/her ideas to the other members of their group. During the presentation other members were encouraged to ask questions for clarification, make suggestions on how to improve the idea or use the idea in a different context. Next, the group was asked to rate all of the presented ideas on the criteria of uniqueness and potential value. All ideas were plotted on a matrix and the groups were asked to select their top three concepts.

3. Present and Pick
Each group then presented their top 3 ideas in a standardized format to the larger group (50 people in this case). The groups were then asked to give three votes to three ideas that according to them was the most unique and had the most value for the company. A ranking of ideas emerged and the top 10 of these ideas were taken into the next round.

4. Praise and Criticize
Having selected the 10 innovative ideas that were both unique and had significant value to the organization, it was then time to start moving into action. But, before I asked individual groups to start writing action plans, i wanted to galvanize the collective wisdom of all 50 people in the room to improve the idea. The concept that we used was “Praise and Criticize.” Each group was given a random idea and had 5 minutes to list as many reasons why this was a great idea along with why this idea was not going to work. After 5 minutes the list of praises and critiques was moved to the next group and they are asked to do the same. If you do this 4/5 times you get a pretty exhaustive list of good and bad qualities for every idea.

5. Action!
The list of praise and criticism was then given to the group that originally came up with the idea, so that they could take their colleagues comments into account when they started working on their action plan. You can imagine that the action plan that was created was significantly richer in content as already 50 people had been able to review it and make suggestions.

The end result for the team I worked with was 8 fantastic ideas that already had a meaty action plan linked to them. A project lead was appointed and a first review date was set. And the amazing thing is it only took 4 hours to go through this session. 4 hours with 50 people leading to 8 brilliant business innovation ideas. Not a bad investment in my book!

So, whenever you are planning to do your next brainstorming session, let people come up with their own ideas first. Let them share their ideas, fight over what the best ideas are and then use the collective wisdom of the group to praise and criticize those ideas to strengthen their overall action plan.

– Paul Keijzer

You may also like:
Does Your Team Have A Clear Line of Sight?
If You Want People To Collaborate – Put Them Next To Each Other

How To Find A Job Using LinkedIn

LinkedInThe talent market in many parts of the world continues to be a pretty flat line. Opportunities are not created, as investment in new business is low and existing businesses are looking to do more for less. Everybody is holding on to their seat, as economic circumstances don’t allow you to make a career mistake: ‘a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush’.

A couple of months ago I shared with you a number of tips on how to move your career forward whilst there is no career opportunity on the horizon (Find Me a Job Now!). Using your network is the most direct route to your next job. And, although nothing beats networking in person, we are now connected virtually through Facebook, Linkedin, Twitter and hundreds of other social media networking sites

I don’t use Facebook for personal networking. No, Facebook is just not my thing. What I do use a lot is Linkedin. It has not only transformed into the #1 professional networking site, but also as a great source of knowledge on ‘life in the corporate world’. I have a considerable network on LinkedIn and am using it extensively to find people, re-connect with colleagues and brand myself as an HR leader. There are already more than enough articles written on how you can use LinkedIn to find your next job (a Google search on the topic resulted in 234 million hits!) and I would suggest that you go through a number of them to get a bunch of different ideas.

For individuals using LinkedIn as a main source in identifying people and also being a significant target for job seekers, these are my tips on how you can improve the way you use LinkedIn to network:

PROFILE: Make sure your profile is up to date and captures who you are and what you have done. Be realistic and don’t make it picture perfect, trust me… with only 2 years of experience you haven’t changed the world (yet!). Think through what your ‘Unique Selling Proposition’ is and make sure you bring this out in a convincing manner. Companies or individuals are always looking for specific knowledge, skills or talent. They scan profiles trying to find what they are looking for.

CONNECT: Connect with people that you know, don’t invite people you don’t know and don’t turn down invites from other people. When people have accepted your invite, thank them and let them know what you can do for them. The number of emails I get after a person has connected with me, asking to help them find them a job, is astounding. Ask yourself why should I do this? They don’t know me, nor do they know what I am good at, why should they stop what they are doing to help me find a job?

GIVE BACK: I have noticed that the number of times I do respond are linked to emails and request of (1) people that I have a long-standing relationship with, (2) people that respond to a particular piece I have written or (3) people that share or give without asking for favors. So instead of asking, start giving and you will see that the relationship you have with specific individuals changes dramatically.

STAY IN TOUCH: LinkedIn now has an awesome feature in which you can see how long it has been since you have been in touch with any of your contacts. Use that to stay in touch with people you have not seen, spoken, or interacted with for some time and whom you know are valuable for future support or references. No, don’t just send an email saying ‘Hi it’s been a long time hope u are well, by the way, can you give me a job”. Instead, write a note in which you share a fond memory. Thank the person for something you have learned from them or simply recall an awesome thing you did together. Personalize your message and make the other person feel special. Only after you have brought the relationship back to where it was a number of years ago can you start thinking of asking for any help or guidance.

It’s a tough talent market out there, with lots of people looking for work and not as many opportunities. Remember to do two things if you want to succeed in this market; keep finding opportunities to learn and always network! Good luck.

– Paul Keijzer

You may also like:
Find Me A Job Now!
The Interview IQ: Great Questions For Candidates To Ask

If You Want People To Collaborate – Put Them Next To Each Other!

collaboration“Change is the only constant” is a mantra that has been engrained in almost every professional I have met. However, when you ask a leader how to help employees change, the response is often pin drop silence, but after some time, people often refer to the tested ‘carrot or stick’ approach. Reward the people that change and ignore or kick out the people that don’t. Philip Kotler, the change management guru, famously stated that only 30% of all change initiatives succeed. Few betting men would take these odds…

Almost all change initiatives require people to alter their behaviors. Taking action is the most difficult as we all know from our experience in trying to lose weight, exercise regularly, influence our teenagers to clean their rooms or even change the shopping habits of our spouse. Research into people trying to quit smoking, shows that only 17% are successful and never smoke again. And to prove that old habits die hard: even if people are confronted with a major physical crisis (e.g. a heart attack) less than one out of two are able to kick the habit.

We are creatures of habit. It gives us comfort, confidence and much needed stability to make sense of this fast changing world. Two books I recently read have helped me become better in advising companies on how to change behaviors. The most recent book “The Power of Habit” is written by New York Times business writer Charles Duhigg. He helps you understand how habits work and how you can change them, not only at an individual level but also on an organizational and societal level. So far, it is Amazon’s book of the year, so check it out.

However, my current favorite read is “Influencer: The Power To Change Anything” from Kerry Patterson. In this Patterson shares a very simple model on how you can influence behavior. Firstly. Patterson distinguishes two components that stop people from changing. They either don’t want it (motivation) or they don’t know how to (ability). Through powerful real life examples, Patterson helps you understand how you can influence behavior on a personal, social and structural level.

-1

My personal favorite insight is the impact of distance on collaboration and where by changing the environment in which people operate you ‘force’ them to change their behavior. Bell Labs was interested in understanding what was the best predictor for scientist to work effectively and collectively, smash ideas together and build on each others concepts. The answer? Distance. Scientist who worked next to each other where 3 times more likely to discuss technical topics that lead to collaboration versus scientists sitting only 30 feet from one another. With a distance of only 90 feet, the collaboration dropped to levels similar as if they were working several miles away.

Many clients often complain about different functions within the company that don’t work well enough together. Using Patterson’s example I always advise them to make people, who need to accomplish something together, simply sit together. Companies like P&G and Unilever have taken this concept even further by making their cross-functional teams sit at their client premises. If you want to change behavior, don’t forget to think about changing your physical environment.

– Paul Keijzer