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.


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?

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.

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.

Books Most Enjoyed In 2014

I was asked the best books I read last year in 2014. You will remember most of these:

“The Power of Habit”- Charles Duhigg. The idea that we are the sum of our habits is transformative. Taking an inventory of habits, deciding to change them and understanding how habits are designed can move you in a better direction.

“Creative Confidence”- Tom Kelley and David Kelley. These guys explore the idea that only some of us are creative. The evolving world demands creative responses every day. Understanding the methods of creativity helps to identify the creative ability in you.

“Never Go Back”- Dr. Henry Cloud. Cloud lays out 10 mistakes we should endeavor not to make twice. I spent the whole book nodding my head in an agreement. Reading the book might equip you with warning signals to avoid mistakes.

If that’s not enough, I’ll have a few more tomorrow.

Focus On The Present

“Be where your feet are.”  Alabama football coach Nick Saban’s advice to his team.

Be present. Focus on your surroundings.

Don’t worry about what could happen. Be focused on what is in front of you.

Don’t look ahead too far. Too much anticipation could cause you to miss an important step necessary to achieve what you hoped to achieve.

Don’t let your mind wander backward to regret. To get stuck on “woulda”, “coulda” and “shoulda” is to squander energy designated for moving ahead.

Read the situation as it is. Don’t wish for better circumstances. Adjust for what is happening. Play it as it comes. Take action to shift the momentum.

Bloom where you are planted. Take a look at what you can do with what you have. And, do it.

What’s important now? Marshall your resources for doing what’s necessary now. Where your feet are.

Creating Culture

Creating a culture is complicated.

It comes with so many elements:




Intentionality which leads to us working daily with discipline on the factors we can impact Customer satisfaction Teamwork Improvement Change responsive as compared to reactive.

It also comes down to so many units applying those elements. We have hundreds of teams of 2-10 people. That’s hundreds of cultures being formed to fit in with the larger whole.

That takes hundreds of leaders. It takes hundreds of people caring and being accountable.

One small group “not getting” the culture we are trying to develop, can take down the culture of an entire plant. Or company. It’s that simple in our complex world.

So, cultures achieved come from each person and each small team being accountable to understand and to do his and their job.

How are you doing? How is your team?

Giving, A Path To Wealth

“You always will have what you give today. The more you give, the more you will have.” Dwight D. Eisenhower

What did you give yesterday?

Effort-Did you pour yourself into your undertaking? Did you inspire your teammates by setting a standard for hard work?

Attention-Was your attention to detail distinctive? Was your focus on matters at hand undivided? Did you spend time listening, really listening, to those around you needing to be heard?

Ideas and opinions-Did you contribute with your mind as well as your presence? Did you make suggestions that improved things? Did you offer rather than withhold constructive feedback? Did you teach those who could benefit from what you know?

Time-Were you  gracious with your time? Did you put aside convenience to bless another?

Money-Did you part with any treasure? Did you make a sacrificial offering to someone in need?

Heart-Did you put yourself on the line? Confront a fear? Act with courage? Make yourself vulnerable for the sake of others?

President Eisenhower saw incredible acts of courage and sacrifice in his life’s endeavors. He gave as well. Seems to me, his ideas on giving are a path to wealth.

Taking Risks Can Be Rewarding

Quincy Jones is one of the greatest music producers of all time.

He helped musical talent ranging from Michael Jackson to Frank Sinatra reach their potential as singers.  The more success he achieved by helping others, the more he was sought out to work with fresh talent.

I heard him being interviewed lately.  He was asked to state some of the beliefs he had.  Here’s one he offered:

“I’d rather say I’m sorry than I wish I had.”

He didn’t elaborate much, but it sounded like an encouragement to take risks.

A guy like Quincy Jones could have been labeled as one kind of producer.

Because he took risks, his skills as a leader, coach, mentor were honed and tested.  He was able to take a variety of paths, have a variety of experiences.  The more he stepped out of his comfort zone, the more he got to experience things many would have thought impossible.

Trying on new things, going places you haven’t been, reading stuff you haven’t sampled before, trying on new responsibilities-there are many things which we can try if we are more bold.

Your Choices Will Define You

“Great shooters don’t spend extra time in the gym, they sacrifice time.  Everyone has the same 24 hours. Nothing extra about it.” Greg White.

You know I love sports analogies and this caught my attention: Everyone has the same 24 hours.

White reminds us that to become an expert at something, you make a choice to dedicate yourself to the task.  Your commitment to excellence means something gets done while other things remain undone or unattended.

That’s the nature of the sacrifice.  I pursue one avenue of excellence which costs me to sacrifice other avenues  I could pursue. It’s a pure and certain tradeoff. Give resources to who or what I want to be.

I listen to Charlie Rose on PBS.  He interviews the best in their fields about many areas of expertise: architecture, theatre, athletics, politics, business, cinema and arts.  You name it.

One of the reasons I love his interviews is that he probes these folks for their secrets and methods.  He remarked recently that no matter how many folks he interviewed, no one has ever said it came easy.  Every person who has achieved extraordinary things did it by putting in the hours, refining the craft and working on it with passion.

Whatever you want to become will come with your choices. Both where you choose to put your time and also where you don’t.