Achieving FLow In Your Workplace

I was reacquainted with a concept this week: Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s thoughts on Flow. He says that Flow is a state of intense focus and crisp sense of clarity where you forget yourself, lose track of time, and feel like you’re part of something larger.

When I first learned about Flow, it was described as an activity which demands undivided attention, that you can perform well, that you have unlimited energy for, where time seems to fly by so fast you lose your sense of how long has passed.

The person teaching about flow pitched the idea,  that if you could, you should find a work environment which allowed you to experience Flow.  Also, if you were in charge of a work environment, you should keep Flow in mind as you create an environment for work.
Piggybacking on this idea, a guy named Schaffer proposed seven conditions which produce Flow. They are:

  1. Knowing what to do
  2. Knowing how to do it
  3. Knowing how well you are doing
  4. Knowing where to go (if navigation is involved)
  5. High perceived challenges
  6. High perceived skills
  7. Freedom from distractions

So, if you are on your own:

Make sure you know how the game is played.

Make sure you get the training/coaching you need to succeed.

It helps if you know the score. Am I getting better? What’s the record? What’s regarded as excellent? How am I progressing?

Your game needs to be challenging.

You have a greater chance to achieve Flow if not everyone else can do what you do.

Eliminate the distractions and hassles.

If you are a boss, you can think about your work environment and team members with the above considerations in mind. Then tweak and modify things to get closer to the ideal.

The dead opposite of Flow is boredom. When you’re feeling bored or your team lacks complacency, those conditions on Flow can give you some insight.


Lessons From The Dogged Dog

Dora is my nine pound poodle. We make quite a pair.

My wife studies her ways and points them out to me. When Dora wants to eat, poop, play or sleep she lets you know it. She engages us with her eyes and posture. She paws and pokes. She stands nearby until her need is addressed.

No question, we indulge her. But, on the same note, she models “dogged” determination to me.

I don’t know about you, but being “dogged” determined is something that I could exhibit a bit more of as it relates to contributing to our team.

Pressing a little harder to achieve a goal or continuing to attack a persistent hassle sometimes takes another hour, day or week before giving up. It comes down to whether I am “dogged” enough to persist.

I ran across a quote this week:

“Don’t start because it’s easy. Start because it’s worth trying. Don’t stop because it’s hard. Stop because you’ve tried your best.”

“Dogged” individuals aren’t daunted by tough challenges. “Dogged” individuals try longer than most others.

Would others describe you as “dogged”?

Everyday Lean

When you look around you at work, there are some things that aren’t ideal. Not exactly right.

Usually, they are tolerable. Things you can work around. Things you can fix later. Things where you can adjust to accommodate.

Perhaps you are the only one who sees it. It’s right in your area. No one else sees it because it’s your practiced, experienced eye that recognizes the variance.  That’s where being lean kicks in.

If you aren’t lean, you leave those things that aren’t exactly right alone until you can’t ignore them anymore.

Things that aren’t exactly right don’t get better. Fixing them later as compared to earlier is not lean. It leads to a larger cost to repair, more downtime, perhaps injury.

Lean kicks in when we have the discipline to take a look around every day. Note the things that aren’t exactly right. Work with the team to get it right.

The trick is to understand that you can complete that process every day and probably find something not exactly right. We become leaner when we deal with them quicker.

Got “Ferocious Intention”?

I was listening to a sermon about how powerful a calendar can be in shaping a better life.

The speaker was Bill Hybels. You can listen to the whole thing here.

Here’s a summary though:

  1. Determine what you want to accomplish or achieve.
  1. Make time in your schedule to pursue that accomplishment or achievement.
  1. Write down your committed time in ink, not pencil.
  1. Identify activities that will help you to fulfill your accomplishment or intention.
  1. Pursue those activities with “ferocious intention.”

The term “ferocious intention” caught my ear. I’ve counseled folks in recent weeks on a variety of activities: getting a new job, achieving a new level of income, being a better husband, getting into a college of their choice.

In each of those cases, I wished I had the term “ferocious intention” to throw at them.

What mental images arise when you consider “ferocious intention”?

Urgency. It communicates someone on a mission.

Focus. It communicates someone with intense concentration.

Certain. It communicates someone who knows where he wants to be.

Resilience. It communicates someone who gets up again after being blocked or tackled.

Resolve. It communicates someone who has a destination in mind.

Maybe other words come to mind with you.

But, it also caused me to reflect. What in my life am I approaching with “ferocious intent”? How about you?

Plan For Adversity

If you’re a college football fan, you know that Ohio State became the national champion a week ago with a victory over Oregon.

The Buckeyes were the underdog. They were seeded fourth among the four teams selected. Further, they were playing with their third string quarterback.  And, though well experienced by a full season, the team was filled with underclassmen.

Nevertheless, they beat the #1 and the #2 teams.

Much was made of the Buckeyes overcoming adversity. Coach Urban Meyer said his team was “trained for adversity”.

Turns out that Meyer has met an organizational consultant in the off season named Tim Kight. Meyer invited Kight in to train his team on building a culture of resilience. The training was right on time.

In an article in Sports Illustrated, writer Andy Staples described how Ohio State players learned to cope with a bad turn of events. The players were taught three critical steps:

  1. Press Pause. When adversity comes, it’s important to take a breath and assess the situation.
  1. Get Your Mind Right. The adversity creates a new set of circumstances which will require a different strategy or approach. You won’t be ready to move ahead if your mind isn’t properly aligned and focused.
  1. Step Up. You overcome adversity by taking action. You pitch in where you can. You take steps to right the situation. You happen to the world.

The Ohio State team was trained to handle adversity with a process, a checklist, if you like. They moved in unison. They stayed on the same page.

The knowledge inspired confidence.

They were taught that it’s not whether adversity comes it’s when it comes.

And, when it came, they had a plan: pause, get our minds right, step up.

Do you have a plan for adversity? If not, can you make this one work for you?

Leadership Lessons From The Field

The NFL playoffs continue this weekend and, for football fans who also admire leadership, it is a time to pay attention to the coaches to see what you learn.

All of the coaches have something to admire. One of the leaders I admire most is Bill Belichick of the Patriots.

He puts a premium on several things:

Team first. He works on creating a roster of people who don’t worry about individual credit. If you watch the Patriots much, you know they may win passing the ball this week and running it next week. And, it won’t be the same guys doing the running and catching. The open man and the hot hand get the call.

Situations dominate. His team is full of smart, well taught players. He and his team understand that the game is fluid. Thus, he implores them to read the situation. An accurate reading of the situation elicits the appropriate action. The greater the range of situations the players understand, the more flexible the team is in responding to the changing environment.

Do your job. The coaches take responsibility for defining the job and teaching it well. Belichick expects them to do their jobs. In the heat of the battle, he will implore them constantly: “Do your job. ”

Sports imitate life. Teach well and be well taught. Anticipate situations and react by doing your job as the situation requires.

You win more often than you lose.

Understanding is Key To Communication

“No matter how thin you slice it, there are always two sides.”

I get to mediate conflicts. One of the jobs of the CEO is to sort out disputes which occur between plants or people. Often, the dispute occurs because of miscommunication.

Someone says something that is misinterpreted. The misinterpretation cuts off communication and problem solving. The problem is left to fester and to pollute. It isn’t good.

Several things I’ve learned:

Most people don’t intend to offend or to cut off communication. No doubt it happens. But, when it does, the offended frequently suffers in silence rather than clarify the offense. Thus, the wound festers.

When miscommunication happens, it occurs most often because the parties are making a point instead of listening for points. One of Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People is “seek first to understand”. When someone says something that offends me, I assume they didn’t mean it.  I try to clarify.

I say something like, “should I take what you just said to mean ….”  Most times, when I feed back the statement that offended me, they don’t like the sound of it and work to make me understand better what they intended.

To be sure, discussing conflict is not all “seashells and balloons”. There is dicey stuff. Some unpleasant. Some not easy to hear.

It takes some practice to courageously communicate difficulties. When communication is cutoff too soon, problems worsen.

So, pause. Make sure you try to understand the other side before you proceed to the resolution.

Getting Better Is Not Solely An Inside Job

I pay attention to research about teaching and what helps a student succeed. My thought is that if we want to get better at PalletOne, we need to continue to learn more. If we are going to learn more, we need to have teachers in leadership.

I ran across some research by an Australian psychology professor Arthur E. Poropat. He notes that research shows that both conscientiousness (which he defines as a tendency to be “diligent, dutiful and hardworking”) and openness (characterized by qualities like creativity and curiosity) are better predictors of student performance than intelligence is.

He also notes that ratings of students’ personalities by outside observers like teachers are more strongly linked with academic success than the way students rate themselves.

Two things we can take away from this:

First, studies show that you can’t do much to increase your intelligence, but you can become more conscientious and open with effort and practice. If your effectiveness depends on such things, you can act to change it.

Second, the role of a teacher, coach, mentor or boss is huge in helping people become the best they can be. So often, outsiders see potential, talents and possibilities in us that we don’t know are possible. As a PalletOne leader, one of the best ways we can happen to the world is to work to make others better by coaching, teaching and encouraging.

Getting better is not solely an inside job. To be sure, we can work on our effort and openness. But, we need others for the feedback, instruction and encouragement.

Learning Brings Change

Jeb Bush, the former governor of Florida, indicated recently that he is considering running for President. (This isn’t a political piece).

I was reading a profile about how some of his positions on issues have changed since he entered politics 20 plus years ago. Critics will call it “flip flopping”.

In the article one of Bush’s advisors, Allison DeFoor responded this way:

“He does not flip flop. He learns. And, when he learns, he changes.”

This quote reminded me of how important it is to keep learning. We make decisions and take positions at any given point in time because of what we have learned and what we know to be true.

But, there is always more around the corner that adds to our base of knowledge and the more we know, the more we refine our thought process. It will cause us to change.

Certainly, some folks change positions  for expediency sake. They may be trying to accrue favor in some way. It would be appropriate to be skeptical.

But, learning provokes change. A genuine desire to learn more has the potential to change a heart. A changed heart can cause a change in a new direction.

Thus, this suggestion: be a learner. Be open to finding a better, more informed direction. Be open to a change of heart.

Experience Prepare Us For What’s Ahead

Franklin Roosevelt was stricken with polio when he was in his 30’s.

He lost the use of his legs overnight, never to regain it.

Many people would have resigned themselves to a life of disability. Roosevelt would not. He spent the next years working to strengthen his upper body and figuring how to adapt to the world. Within seven years, he was elected governor of New York and within 11 he was President of the United States facing some of our nation’s greatest challenges.

Historians have analyzed those years of illness and rehabilitation. Some say the things he learned then contributed to his effectiveness as a leader.

Here are some of the lessons:

-There is a difference between being lame and crippled. He resolved to overcome his condition with hard work and creative solutions. He was able to lead with most people being unaware of his limitations.

-Gave him the gift of empathy.  Roosevelt was an elite, blue blood American when his illness struck. His illness gave him a new awareness of those in need.

-It taught him that relying on easy gifts was a weak strategy.  Things had come easily to Roosevelt. He was born into privilege. His name opened up things for him. The polio made him see that natural easy gifts could evaporate quickly.

– He saw you have to work diligently to overcome more demanding situations. His personal hardship of a lengthy recovery from illness prepared him with the right perspective for the lengthy recovery from the Depression as well as the conduct of World War II.

You never know how your experience-challenges, illnesses, successes- prepares you for what might may lay ahead. Turns out what Roosevelt learned from polio helped save a nation.