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Posts Tagged With "Quotables"

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Get Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable #1

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Wisdom Leading

"Embrace the Suck" is a phrase popularized by Chris McCormack, the great Australian triathlete. It means that in the course of training or competing, you're going to hurt, sometimes a lot. The only way you'll get to the finish line at your top level is by not only accepting the fact that you're going to be uncomfortable, but by learning to love your suffering and discomfort because they are making you stronger.

I can relate. As some of you know, I've spent the last year working to get fit and healthy and to run my first triathlon in 25 years. The results have been gratifying: I've lost about 50 pounds and feel the best I've felt in decades. But it hasn't been easy. My day now includes long runs at sunrise, grueling cycling sessions and a diet free of gluten and sugar. Sometimes, it's all been so hard that I didn't think I could continue.

What kept me going was the understanding that's gotten me through most of the important changes in my life: we don't grow when we're comfortable. An easy walk on a treadmill won't get you in shape like a spin class that leaves you gasping for air. Facing uncomfortable truths about your organization may be unnerving, but it will also transform your organization in a way that ignoring those changes won't.

In facing change, high performers get comfortable with the fact that they're going to be uncomfortable. They prepare themselves to understand that when the discomfort comes and they're tempted to run in the other direction (or more frequently, not at all), they can redirect their thinking and say, "Cool, here it is. I got this. This is when champions rise."

Where does your desire for comfort torpedo your highest talents and aspirations?

10.7.13 1
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Language Matters

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

On a recent trip abroad, I couldn't help but notice how many people were wearing clothing with English-sounding sayings. Trying to look cool and stylish, few had any idea that many sayings were misspelled or misapplied and made them look a little silly to English speakers. For example, one shirt said, "The Wind City: Chicago." I'm not sure if that implied flatulence or climate, but true Chicagoans would be aghast at the error. Another guy meant to wear a shirt that said "Cocktail shots" but instead it said, "Cocktails in shoots." These unwitting subjects wanted to demonstrate they understood a culture, but lack of accuracy in their language made them strangers to it. This is instructive for leading and for teams. Organizations need shared language that communicates a common story, direction and community. Without a common language and shared stories, there's little common ground. Community suffers. Wise leaders pay attention to language, both spoken and written. They find ways to steer the organizational narrative toward specific storylines and away from more general words like "excellence," so overused they've become meaningless. They remember that words have impact. Words change minds. Words change the world. What does your employees' language say about the health and cohesiveness of your organization?

On a recent trip abroad, I couldn't help but notice how many people were wearing clothing with English-sounding sayings. Trying to look cool and stylish, few had any idea that many sayings were misspelled or misapplied and made them look a little silly to English speakers. For example, one shirt said, "The Wind City: Chicago." I'm not sure if that implied flatulence or climate, but true Chicagoans would be aghast at the error. Another guy meant to wear a shirt that said "Cocktail shots" but instead it said, "Cocktails in shoots."

These unwitting subjects wanted to demonstrate they understood a culture, but lack of accuracy in their language made them strangers to it. This is instructive for leading and for teams. Organizations need shared language that communicates a common story, direction and community. Without a common language and shared stories, there's little common ground. Community suffers.

Wise leaders pay attention to language, both spoken and written. They find ways to steer the organizational narrative toward specific storylines and away from more general words like "excellence," so overused they've become meaningless. They remember that words have impact. Words change minds. Words change the world.

What does your employees' language say about the health and cohesiveness of your organization?

9.30.13 0
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A Hard Right

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

This summer, I was in Italy interviewing a former officer in the Special Forces for my upcoming book, The Wave. After sharing many stories, this impressive, decorated hero said something I found fascinating, "It was my job to help my men see that it's never okay to do an easy wrong instead of a hard right." That's morality in a nutshell: doing what's merely convenient is never acceptable for its own sake. When faced with the choice between expedience and moral, ethical action, the leader must choose the harder path. Leaders lead by example. Leaders go first. This is an old-fashioned notion in a world where people are often more concerned with the optics of a decision-how it plays to the media or shareholders-than with its moral and ethical implications. Leaders should know that easy, questionable choices are slippery slope. The "easy" road leads to rationalization and self-justification, and conveys a message to those observing that it's fine to play fast and loose with the facts or product quality. Hard choices announce loud and clear, "THIS is the way we do things. THIS and nothing else is acceptable." By rewarding those who choose "hard rights," the wise leader also says, "I know this isn't easy, and it was extra work, but I recognize your wisdom." What message are you sending your team about "hard rights" and "easy wrongs"?

This summer, I was in Italy interviewing a former officer in the Special Forces for my upcoming book, The Wave. After sharing many stories, this impressive, decorated hero said something I found fascinating, "It was my job to help my men see that it's never okay to do an easy wrong instead of a hard right."

That's morality in a nutshell: doing what's merely convenient is never acceptable for its own sake. When faced with the choice between expedience and moral, ethical action, the leader must choose the harder path. Leaders lead by example. Leaders go first.

This is an old-fashioned notion in a world where people are often more concerned with the optics of a decision-how it plays to the media or shareholders-than with its moral and ethical implications. Leaders should know that easy, questionable choices are slippery slope. The "easy" road leads to rationalization and self-justification, and conveys a message to those observing that it's fine to play fast and loose with the facts or product quality.

Hard choices announce loud and clear, "THIS is the way we do things. THIS and nothing else is acceptable." By rewarding those who choose "hard rights," the wise leader also says, "I know this isn't easy, and it was extra work, but I recognize your wisdom."

What message are you sending your team about "hard rights" and "easy wrongs"?

9.23.13 0
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The First Follower

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Wisdom Leading

There's a wonderful video on YouTube that shows a music festival somewhere in the U.S. In the video, one man is dancing to the music in the middle of a field while everyone else watches him uncomfortably. The dancer is completely uninhibited, lost in the joy of the music, like a child. But no one else moves...until one other person finally breaks free from the stasis that seems to hold everyone else still and joins the first dancer in the field. With that unspoken act of "permission," the entire crowd rushes into the field and starts dancing as one. Human beings are group-oriented. There's a reason that more people fear speaking in public than they fear death: speaking in public means being apart from the group, alone, vulnerable. The group implies safety, even if it can also restrict and stifle us. We need permission-overt or implied-to break free from the group's gravitational pull. That's why the First Follower is such a powerful concept. One person breaking from the group to take positive action often makes it "all right" for others to do the same. That's one of the ways that one person can inspire and lead an entire team. What are you doing to encourage people to be First Followers? What do you do when you're in position to be the First Follower?

There's a wonderful video on YouTube that shows a music festival somewhere in the U.S. In the video, one man is dancing to the music in the middle of a field while everyone else watches him uncomfortably. The dancer is completely uninhibited, lost in the joy of the music, like a child. But no one else moves...until one other person finally breaks free from the stasis that seems to hold everyone else still and joins the first dancer in the field. With that unspoken act of "permission," the entire crowd rushes into the field and starts dancing as one.

Human beings are group-oriented. There's a reason that more people fear speaking in public than they fear death: speaking in public means being apart from the group, alone, vulnerable. The group implies safety, even if it can also restrict and stifle us. We need permission-overt or implied-to break free from the group's gravitational pull.

That's why the First Follower is such a powerful concept. One person breaking from the group to take positive action often makes it "all right" for others to do the same. That's one of the ways that one person can inspire and lead an entire team.

What are you doing to encourage people to be First Followers? What do you do when you're in position to be the First Follower?

9.16.13 0
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Cardboard Playhouse

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

Recently, a friend told me how he asked furniture delivery men to leave a large cardboard box at his home so his daughters could turn it into a playhouse. Sure enough, his girls and their cousin fell on that box with tape and markers and imagination, turning it into a whimsical cabin that they slept in for several warm summer nights. This got me to thinking about scarcity and how it can be one of the best stimulants for imagination. Think back to your own childhood. How many times did you turn a refrigerator or washing machine box into a spaceship or racecar? You didn't have controllers, screens or an Internet connection. You had scissors, paint, and your imagination. And you worked wonders! What's to stop you from doing the same thing today? I've written that winning often makes teams forgetful and complacent. Well, the availability of resources often makes teams and departments lazy. Have a problem? Throw some money at it! But money doesn't solve problems; imaginative, innovative thinking does. Ironically, we call that sort of thinking "outside the box." However, pause to consider how a little "inside the cardboard box" thinking would serve us better. Next time you're trying to pin down a hard-to-find solution, get out your cardboard box. Ask your team, "What could we do if we didn't have a budget?" You'll be startled by the creativity of the answers. How can you stimulate "inside the box" imagination on your team?

Recently, a friend told me how he asked some furniture delivery men to leave a large cardboard box at his home so his daughters could turn it into a playhouse. Sure enough, his girls and their cousin fell on that box with tape and markers and imagination, turning it into a whimsical cabin that they slept in for several warm summer nights. This got me to thinking about scarcity and how it can be one of the best stimulants for imagination.

Think back to your own childhood. How many times did you turn a refrigerator or washing machine box into a spaceship or racecar? You didn't have controllers, screens or an Internet connection. You had scissors, paint, and your imagination. And you worked wonders! What's to stop you from doing the same thing today?

I've written that winning often makes teams forgetful and complacent. Well, the availability of resources often makes teams and departments lazy. Have a problem? Throw some money at it! But money doesn't solve problems; imaginative, innovative thinking does. Ironically, we call that sort of thinking "outside the box." However, pause to consider how a little "inside the cardboard box" thinking would serve us better. Next time you're trying to pin down a hard-to-find solution, get out your cardboard box. Ask your team, "What could we do if we didn't have a budget?" You'll be startled by the creativity of the answers.

How can you stimulate "inside the box" imagination on your team?

9.9.13 0
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Taking the Red Pill

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Wisdom Leading

Remember the 1999 movie The Matrix? One of the most iconic moments from the film was when the main character, Neo, had to make a choice between the red pill or the blue pill. He chose to take the red pill and to travel deeper down the rabbit hole of the computer-generated fantasy he was living in. Only by questioning every assumption was he able to distinguish reality from illusion. When it comes to our own unconscious assumptions, we are all living in the Matrix - at least some of the time. Ask yourself, how much of your own behavior is the result of "programming" by family, school, and society? Some unconscious assumption is beneficial-we can drive to work on autopilot because we don't need to reinvent our route each morning-but when we simply stop questioning our actions, motives, and attitudes toward everything, we compromise our ability to lead, innovate and problem-solve. Taking the "red pill"-breaking free of "We've always done it this way" and "that's just the way it is" thinking-unplugs us from the Matrix and frees us to see people and situations in fresh ways. We're able to "walk around the room" and view circumstances from all perspectives. We become more empathic, creative and perceptive. We begin to see things that other people can't. How can you change your perspective on what you see and do every day? What assumptions should you and your people be questioning and inverting?

Remember the 1999 movie The Matrix? One of the most iconic moments from the film was when the main character, Neo, had to make a choice between the red pill or the blue pill. He chose to take the red pill and to travel deeper down the rabbit hole of the computer-generated fantasy he was living in. Only by questioning every assumption was he able to distinguish reality from illusion.

When it comes to our own unconscious assumptions, we are all living in the Matrix - at least some of the time. Ask yourself, how much of your own behavior is the result of "programming" by family, school, and society? Some unconscious assumption is beneficial - we can drive to work on autopilot because we don't need to reinvent our route each morning - but when we simply stop questioning our actions, motives, and attitudes toward everything, we compromise our ability to lead, innovate, and problem-solve.

Taking the "red pill"-breaking free of "We've always done it this way" and "that's just the way it is" thinking-unplugs us from the Matrix and frees us to see people and situations in fresh ways. We're able to "walk around the room" and view circumstances from all perspectives. We become more empathic, creative, and perceptive. We begin to see things that other people can't.

How can you change your perspective on what you see and do every day? What assumptions should you and your people be questioning and inverting?

9.2.13 0
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Two Mules

Dr. Foster Mobley // Quotables, Wisdom Leading

A prospector walked his old mule into the dusty Western town, tied it to a hitching post outside of the local saloon, and went inside for a drink. A few minutes later, another prospector walked his mule to the hitching post, tied it up, and went inside. The first mule noticed that the second mule was so laden with heavy gear that its back was bowed; its belly nearly dragged on the ground. Finally, the first mule said to the second, "Pardon me, but how do you handle carrying that load?" The second mule blinked and replied, "What load?" In our lives, it's easy to take on so many responsibilities and tasks that we become bent under the weight. We lose the ability to notice how burdened we have become. While we may realize that we're constantly exhausted and that we're not thinking with the same acuity as we did in the past, we don't clearly understand why. Blaming our age or circumstance is a common, and mostly ineffective scapegoat for this lack of awareness. Building in and honoring rest stops in your routine, much like we do when we're taking a long drive, allows you step to away from the journey and gain some perspective. With this gift of perspective, you can see more clearly if you have taken on more than you should-the emotional burdens of team members, the responsibilities of direct-report colleagues-and if so, the effect it's having on you. Only when you see the load you're carrying can you make provisions to manage it, shed some of it, or even take on more if the situation calls for it. Are you aware of the load you're carrying? How would a dose of "load management" affect your leadership and your life?

A prospector walked his old mule into the dusty Western town, tied it to a hitching post outside of the local saloon, and went inside for a drink. A few minutes later, another prospector walked his mule to the hitching post, tied it up, and went inside. The first mule noticed that the second mule was so laden with heavy gear that its back was bowed; its belly nearly dragged on the ground.

Finally, the first mule said to the second, "Pardon me, but how do you handle carrying that load?"

The second mule blinked and replied, "What load?"

In our lives, it's easy to take on so many responsibilities and tasks that we become bent under the weight. We lose the ability to notice how burdened we have become. While we may realize that we're constantly exhausted and that we're not thinking with the same acuity as we did in the past, we don't clearly understand why. Blaming our age or circumstance is a common, and mostly ineffective scapegoat for this lack of awareness.

Building in and honoring rest stops in your routine, much like we do when we're taking a long drive, allows you step to away from the journey and gain some perspective. With this gift of perspective, you can see more clearly if you have taken on more than you should-the emotional burdens of team members, the responsibilities of direct-report colleagues-and if so, the effect it's having on you. Only when you see the load you're carrying can you make provisions to manage it, shed some of it, or even take on more if the situation calls for it.

Are you aware of the load you're carrying? How would a dose of "load management" affect your leadership and your life?

8.26.13 0
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200 Words for Choice

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

It is said that the indigenous tribes in the Artic Circle have over 200 words for the concept of snow. To an outsider, that seems a little excessive at best, and confusing at worst. But, the value of an important concept in any culture is almost never accurately determined from the outside. Culture is defined as "...the traditional ways of thinking, feeling and reacting shared by a society which help it address its challenges." Think about culture as the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves that define who we are. Culture is important because, while it doesn't necessary determine what happens to us, it heavily shapes the meaning we place on those events, and whether they empower or cripple us. It's not hard for anyone to understand that snow, and all its permutations have very real implications on people in the Arctic regions. Therefore, their culture promotes a deep understanding of, and sensitivity to weather and its nuances of snow. You know what I'd like to see? Our business organizations have placed so much value in the concepts of human development and consciousness (read as "awakenness"), like choice, presence and intentionality that we have 200 words to cover their many aspects and nuances. In many well-intentioned organizations today, uttering those three words get you branded softheaded, na´ve or worse. Wise leaders know otherwise and act accordingly. What is possible when a culture honors and values qualities attributed to the full performance of its people? What do you value through your words and actions?

It is said that the indigenous tribes in the Artic Circle have over 200 words for the concept of snow. To an outsider, that seems a little excessive at best, and confusing at worst. But, the value of an important concept in any culture is almost never accurately determined from the outside.

Culture is defined as "...the traditional ways of thinking, feeling and reacting shared by a society which help it address its challenges." Think about culture as the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves that define who we are. Culture is important because, while it doesn't necessary determine what happens to us, it heavily shapes the meaning we place on those events, and whether they empower or cripple us.

It's not hard for anyone to understand that snow, and all its permutations have very real implications on people in the Arctic regions. Therefore, their culture promotes a deep understanding of, and sensitivity to weather and its nuances of snow.

You know what I'd like to see? Our business organizations have placed so much value in the concepts of human development and consciousness (read as "awakenness"), like choice, presence and intentionality that we have 200 words to cover their many aspects and nuances. In many well-intentioned organizations today, uttering those three words get you branded softheaded, naïve or worse. Wise leaders know otherwise and act accordingly.

What is possible when a culture honors and values qualities attributed to the full performance of its people? What do you value through your words and actions?

8.19.13 0
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Culture Rules

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

Head due north from Verona, Italy on the A22 Autostrada (think the Italian version of Germany's famous Autobahn) toward the Italian Alps and you'll soon pass through countryside so idyllic you'll think you've been transported to the Sound of Music soundstage. It's all there but Julie Andrews - villages perched on beautiful, green hillsides backed by rugged, snow capped mountains and every house with the ubiquitous flower boxes in every window. You know what else? The infrastructure - roads, bridges, signs - is suddenly pristine also, somehow unlike most of the rest of Italy. Something is different here in South Tyrol. History informs that this region has been fought over since before World War I, and that each subsequent treaty has brought it closer to Italian rule, despite a large predominance of the population that identifies itself with Austria, Italy's neighbor to the north. The last treaty concerning governance was signed over 40 years ago, yet generations of these Italians still don't consider Italian their native language or identity. Roads and bridges look so good here because the Italian government allows this region to keep up to 90% of its tax revenues in an attempt appease the region's inhabitants. Even road signs come in two languages, German and Italian. The lesson for leaders? Culture endures, and trumps almost everything else. Culture is defined as a society's traditional ways of thinking, feeling and reacting to resolve its issues over time. Experience tells us that culture outlives leaders, their pet initiatives, and in this case, even national boundaries. Yet it is seldom effectively addressed through conflict, appeasement, or indifference. Culture is always a factor in leading change, and can only be bridged through respect, understanding and one thing more - clarity to all parties of how a new culture benefits. Leaving culture unaddressed is often a fatal flaw in failed change efforts. Are you building road signs in two languages, or finding ways to bridges differences through understanding?

Head due north from Verona, Italy on the A22 Autostrada (think the Italian version of Germany's famous Autobahn) toward the Italian Alps and you'll soon pass through countryside so idyllic you'll think you've been transported to the Sound of Music soundstage. It's all there but Julie Andrews - villages perched on beautiful, green hillsides backed by rugged, snow capped mountains and every house with the ubiquitous flower boxes in every window. You know what else? The infrastructure - roads, bridges, signs - is suddenly pristine also, somehow unlike most of the rest of Italy. Something is different here in South Tyrol.

History informs that this region has been fought over since before World War I, and that each subsequent treaty has brought it closer to Italian rule, despite a large predominance of the population that identifies itself with Austria, Italy's neighbor to the north. The last treaty concerning governance was signed over 40 years ago, yet generations of these Italians still don't consider Italian their native language or identity. Roads and bridges look so good here because the Italian government allows this region to keep up to 90% of its tax revenues in an attempt appease the region's inhabitants. Even road signs come in two languages, German and Italian.

The lesson for leaders? Culture endures, and trumps almost everything else. Culture is defined as a society's traditional ways of thinking, feeling and reacting to resolve its issues over time. Experience tells us that culture outlives leaders, their pet initiatives, and in this case, even national boundaries. Yet it is seldom effectively addressed through conflict, appeasement, or indifference.

Culture is always a factor in leading change, and can only be bridged through respect, understanding and one thing more - clarity to all parties of how a new culture benefits. Leaving culture unaddressed is often a fatal flaw in failed change efforts.

Are you building road signs in two languages, or finding ways to bridges differences through understanding?

8.12.13 1
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Being a Winning Team Doesn?t Mean Never Losing

Dr. Foster Mobley // Business, Quotables, Wisdom Leading

This Fall, my partner Matt Brubaker and I will be working in earnest on our new book about high performing teams, The Wave. One of the most challenging demands we'll face is to is contradict what most believe it means to be a successful team. You see, we don't agree with the traditional dogma that a winning team can't ever lose. However, we can't logically make that claim without first redefining some key principles. As we'll detail in the new book, one of the frames through which we must look at successful teams is sustainability. Your team should not be able to sustain a high level of performance for one month or one quarter. It should be able to do so for several years...and beyond. With that as a touchstone, the idea that any team must trend upward forever becomes ridiculous. People aren't machines. Markets aren't static. Economies evolve. Innovations disrupt. Seen in this way, a winning team becomes that group that can sustain excellence in all areas-strategy, finance, communication, personal growth, mission and meaning-through the natural, inevitable ups and downs that affect any organization. The reframing that must occur is to understand setbacks are an important part of the normal course of events. That means realizing that no matter how good your team is, you won't always achieve your objective, and not doing so doesn't mean you break up the team and court chaos. It means reframing failures and missed goals as what they really are: lessons, and often, blessings in disguise. What failures in your life have propelled extraordinary growth and excellence? How could you reframe losses to make your team more effective?

This Fall, my partner Matt Brubaker and I will be working in earnest on our new book about high performing teams, The Wave. One of the most challenging demands we'll face is to contradict what most believe it means to be a successful team. You see, we don't agree with the traditional dogma that a winning team can't ever lose. However, we can't logically make that claim without first redefining some key principles.

As we'll detail in the new book, one of the frames through which we must look at successful teams is sustainability. Your team should not be able to sustain a high level of performance for one month or one quarter. It should be able to do so for several years...and beyond. With that as a touchstone, the idea that any team must trend upward forever becomes ridiculous. People aren't machines. Markets aren't static. Economies evolve. Innovations disrupt.

Seen in this way, a winning team becomes the group that can sustain excellence in all areas-strategy, finance, communication, personal growth, mission and meaning-through the natural, inevitable ups and downs that affect any organization. The reframing that must occur is to understand setbacks are an important part of the normal course of events. That means realizing that no matter how good your team is, you won't always achieve your objective, and not doing so doesn't mean you break up the team and court chaos. It means reframing failures and missed goals as what they really are: lessons, and often, blessings in disguise.

What failures in your life have propelled extraordinary growth and excellence? How could you reframe losses to make your team more effective?

8.5.13 0
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Dr. Foster Mobley

Trusted advisor and coach to admired executives globally for 3 decades, Thought leader on wisdom-based approaches to breakthrough leading, "Lead Coach" for Deloitte's experienced and high potential leader development, Team performance advisor to two NCAA championship teams