The Mentor Advantage

What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring? 

It’s a question I often get asked.

This time the question came from a young CEO inquiring about one of my interactive learning sessions.

Much like harvest gold or avocado-coloured appliances, formal mentoring is something one doesn’t see much anymore. However, that doesn’t mean it’s not valid or necessary.

For centuries the idea of mentoring was considered a cultural norm. It was the time-tested way to learn one’s craft and get ahead. But, first, one would go into a line of work under an ‘apprenticeship’ arrangement where they would work under someone with more experience to learn a trade. This was simply a very formal arrangement that holds the seeds of what modern mentorship looks like today.

A quick search reveals that the major business publications like Forbes, McKinsey, and HBR are now touting the superior benefits of finding the right mentor for leaders who want to grow.

If you cannot see where you are going, ask someone who has been there before. – J Loren Norris

My short answer to the question is that today there are some similarities and overlaps between formal coaching and mentoring approaches.

However, there are also some distinct differences.

Mentoring can be personal and long-term, helping the mentee reach their overall potential as a person and as a professional.

On the other hand, coaching is more likely to be more short-term and aims to improve a specific skill set of the person being coached.

Beyond that, the differences lie in the expertise and skill level needed, overall focus, questions to be answered, and the desired outcomes.

A mentor is someone who sees more talent and ability in you than you see in yourself, and helps bring it out of you. – Bob Proctor 

As an Executive Advisor and Leadership Coach, I incorporate the best elements of coaching and mentoring into my working relationships.

One reason I regularly write about leadership topics is to foster long-term mentoring relationships to share with colleagues and clients.

 In today’s world, we put much value in being a self-starter, getting our own lives in order without help from anyone else.

There are some aspects of life where we feel we might be looked down on if we ask for help.

We have this limiting belief that we should be able to do it all on our own, that asking for help is a sign of weakness. But in fact, just the opposite is true.

The reality is that recognizing you need help usually indicates an advanced level of honesty and intelligence. 

But let’s face it. When you first embark on a new journey, whether professionally or personally, you feel much better when you have someone you can approach when you need help.

  • Someone you can talk to about your goals.
  • Someone who not only listens but can ask questions from earned experience when you get stuck
  • Someone with insight and intellect who is there for the sole purpose of helping you to get ahead.

  Finding a good mentor can help you:

  • Boost your leadership and communication skills.
  • Deepen the knowledge you already have.
  • See things in a new way.
  • Become more aware of the needs of others.
  • Feel more self-assured and confident

 You see, mentors are incredible individuals who have a sincere desire to give back to the world.

They want nothing more than to see you succeed and have the tools to help you do it.

Depending on the situation, it’s essential to recognize that mentoring can be a paid or unpaid arrangement.

The truth is that mentorship is necessary if you want to get ahead.

Mentorship could be considered the original life- hack. LE

 It holds all the shortcuts and gets you where you want to go faster than you could in any other way.

So we all need mentors, whether we realize it or not.

In retrospect, I’ve benefitted enormously from the mentors who have spoken into my life.

 I try to recognize and honour them whenever I can.

On the flip side, I’ve also found incredible value in being a mentor. I love sharing my experiences and observations with people eagerly looking to improve themselves or achieve new goals.

That is the beauty of mentoring.

It’s a relationship where we can both give and receive for mutual benefit and advancement in our lives.

Until next time,

Lorne

For more resources on this topic, drop me a line, and I’ll send you my guide:

(Free for the asking)

SEARCHING FOR GUIDANCE

20 Things To Look For When Seeking The Perfect Mentor

 

Rolling With Resistance

As a leader, I bet you already know a thing or two about resistance.

It usually involves people balking at change.

It can be a new strategy, a new board policy, changing market conditions or even a new person on your team.

Circumstances unexpectedly change, and plans become come unravelled.

Everything slows down or, worse yet, comes to a screeching halt.

In physics, this is known as “Rolling Friction.”

In rough terrain, a mountain bike with fat knobby tires encounters much more rolling resistance than a racing bike with skinny tires on a paved surface.

My truck gets much worse fuel mileage when I’m on a steep incline hauling a heavy load. But, conversely, it sips fuel and goes like stink on a straight-away with no load.

Why? Because there is less rolling friction. This frees the truck to move with greater ease.

The next time a big rig goes flying by you on the highway, this is something to think about.

The dynamics of rolling friction can be just as easily applied in business leadership and life.

“You can’t make an omelette without cracking a few eggs.”

I’m talking about change.

As a leader, you can’t change things without upsetting a few people.

After all, a core leadership function is bringing about change.

Resistance is only natural. It’s human nature to resist change.

Bottom line up front! There is no way to make people like change.

You can only make them feel less threatened by it.

From experience, I find it best to just assume resistance exists. It may not manifest immediately.

There can be “issue” resistance that might require people to change a pattern or learn something new.

There’s “emotional’ resistance.

It’s entirely predictable and typical to come up against a wide range of intense emotions around a proposed change.

It often isn’t logical.

There’s “political” resistance.

Somebody for sure will feel that their authority is being threatened or questioned. Someone might think that personal or professional freedom is being lost.

Rolling With Resistance – What Doesn’t Work

Ramping up persuasions usually backfires and increases resistance.

Stressing the urgency of making a change or highlighting benefits can be equally ineffective.

Arguing or pushing back – forget it.

Rolling With Resistance – What Does Work

Override the strong urge to “set things right.”

Listen intently to understand any barriers or fears the other party is expressing.

Empathize with the concern and explore in a non-judgemental way.

Revisit the agreed-upon goals that brought you together in the first place.

Present the possibility that goals and attitudes don’t mesh with agreed-upon goals.

Identify the gap between “where we are now” and “where we want to be.”

People will only commit to a change if there’s a degree of readiness on their part.

Sometimes it just takes a bit of patience for others to pick up what you’re laying down.

Don’t be afraid to kindly say your piece, and then let silence do the heavy lifting.

Does it always work? No guarantees.

It will get you a bit down the road together in a way that’s better informed.

Until next time.

 

Letting Go to Gain Control

One of my scariest moments happened early in my construction career. I was high atop a wooden beam structure. The task was simple. Drill a hole down through a large horizontal beam to secure it to the supporting post below.

It required a powerful two-handle drill with a sizeable auger bit.

Having double-checked the location, I stabilized my stance on the beam and hit the “on” button. Slowly the heavy drill began its descent.

Then it happened. About halfway through, the bit hit a knot. So instead of turning into the wood, the powerful drill began twirling me around. So yup, there I was, twenty-five feet above the ground, desperately hanging on with legs wildly dangling while doing a not so graceful aerial twirl.

Talk about a pivotal moment!

Moments of high uncertainty often carry a flash of insight. I immediately knew I had to hit the “off” button to halt the process.

It meant letting go of the handle with one hand while groping for the “stop” button with the other. Of course, the letting go had to be timed perfectly so my feet would land back on the beam.

The margin for error was zero-to-none.

Had it not been so dangerous, it might have made a viral “massive fail” video hit on YouTube.

I made it ok. That’s one reason I’m here writing you today. Although, admittedly, it took a while for the adrenaline shakes to subside.

My leadership lesson from that moment is that letting go is hard in times of high uncertainty. Even if it means letting go with one hand to secure a safer future with the other.

 

Control is never achieved when sought after directly. It’s the surprise outcome of letting go.                                                                                
                                –  James Arthur Ray

There’s an old story of how tribal hunters capture monkeys in the wild.

All it requires is a banana strategically placed in a hollowed-out hole of a tree.

Once the monkey happens upon the tempting treat, they reach their hand into the hole to grab the banana.

However, when it tries to pull the banana out, it can’t. The hand grasping the banana is now too large for the hole.

So despite trying different angles and methods, it becomes impossible to pull out without letting go of the banana.

The monkey is so fixated on the banana that it doesn’t perceive the more significant threat.

Even as the trappers draw near, the monkey will refuse to let go of the banana.

Ultimately it leads to their capture.

Fixation on a short-term reward leads to an irreversible long-term consequence.

What do monkeys refuse to let go of? Bananas.

What do some leaders refuse to let go of? Control.

As a leader in times of uncertainty, you’re not alone in feeling anxious about jeopardizing what you already have.

Losing control within your business or your team is a legitimate concern.

It seems counterintuitive, but the more you give, the more you gain.

On the flip side, if you do not let go, share leadership, and delegate at some point, chances are you’ll lose control of the situation regardless.

Got any “stop” buttons you need to hit?

Any bananas you need to release?

Until next time.

 

 

 

 

 

There’s zero doubt that mentors and advisors have played a significant role in my life.

Good advice and good mentorship are really synonymous. At times when I was facing decisions, weighing options, or having some sort of crisis, there’d be someone with timely and applicable words of advice that helped get me through. This has been true of career, health, personal finances, spirituality, and relationships. Finding the right kind of mentor with the right kind of advice isn’t always easy.

It’s not always just about the big picture, either.

Recently, in a high country off-road adventure, the red light on my trusty ATV began flashing and telling me the drive train was about to fail. Multiple scary scenarios raced through my brain. We were deep in grizzly bear territory and about 30 miles from the nearest civilization.

Photo by Author

The prospect of abandoning my ride on a mountainside in the heart of the grizzly bear country was definitely upping my heart rate.

However, my biking partner Trevor, wasn’t too fazed.

Photo by Author

“You had the quad trip checked, right?” Check.

“You had the drive belt replaced, right?” Check.

“The machine seems to be running fine, so the light is probably a factory thing.

Let’s just keep going and see what happens. Worst case scenario- we’ll be that much closer to home.”

Trevor called it.

We got back to civilization OK, and a short session on the University of YouTube explained everything.

Turns out the warning light was pre-programmed at the factory to come on at a certain number of hours to ensure getting back to the dealership. A motorcycle gearhead on YouTube named Oaky knew my machine’s exact make, model, and year and exactly why the light was coming on.

Like any good mentor, Trevor challenged my limiting belief and provided common sense encouragement to keep going. Oaky had the precise knowledge and expertise to help me fix the problem and reset the light

OK.

Now, if only everything else in life was that simple!

In Today’s World, We Value Self-sufficiency

After all, shouldn’t we be able to get our own lives in order without help from anyone else?

In fact, there are some aspects of life where we feel like we might be looked down on if we ask for help. Aren’t there?

Unfortunately, some cultural values and practices have dwindled through the years. For example, for centuries, the idea of formal mentoring was considered a cultural norm. Thus, one would go into a line of work involving something called an “apprenticeship” where they would work under someone with more experience to learn a skill or trade. For some modern-day disciplines, this is still the case.

The true secret of giving advice is, after you have honestly given it, to be perfectly indifferent whether it is taken or not and never persist in trying to set people right. Hannah Whitall Smith

Fast forward to today’s information age. Naturally, there’s an “I’ll just Google that” mindset that kicks in.

The truth of the matter is: mentorship is necessary if you want to get ahead. This was simply a very formal arrangement that holds the seeds of what modern mentorship is today.

It holds all the shortcuts and gets you where you want to go faster than you could in any other way. So we need mentors, whether we realize it or not.

Consider some of these benefits of mentorship:

Mentors Help Us See Things Differently

One of my favorite writers from another era is C.S. Lewis. In his essay “Meditation in a Toolshed,” he describes the dramatic difference between looking at a beam of light and then looking along the same shaft of light.

“I was standing today in the dark toolshed. The sun was shining outside, and through the crack at the top of the door, there came a sunbeam. From where I stood, that beam of light, with the specks of dust floating in it, was the most striking thing in the place. Everything else was almost pitch-black. I was seeing the beam, not seeing things by it.

Then I moved so that the beam fell on my eyes. Instantly the whole previous picture vanished. I saw no toolshed and (above all) no beam. Instead, I saw, framed in the irregular cranny at the top of the door, green leaves moving on the branches of a tree outside and beyond that, 90 odd million miles away, the sun. Looking along the beam and looking at the beam are very different experiences.” C.S Lewis 

Perspective makes all the difference.

A good mentor helps us see things differently.

Mentors Challenge Us Toward A Better Version Of Ourself

 

He that gives good advice builds with one hand; He that gives good counsel and example, builds with both; Francis Bacon

 

In the 2000 movie The Legend Of Bagger Vance, a disillusioned burned-out war veteran, Ranulph Junuh (Matt Damon), reluctantly agrees to enter a local golf tournament. He used to be a pretty good golfer. However, the psychological scars of war left him struggling with PTSD. As a result, he finds the game and much of his life futile.

Enter a mysterious caddy, Bagger Vance (Will Smith), who coaches him back to the secret of his authentic golf swing. It turns out also to be the secret to mastering any challenge and finding meaning in life.

The cinematic turning point is a beautifully captured scene called “The Woods.”

Bagger helps Ranulph look “along the beam” and see what’s possible and just play the game.

Mentorship works much in the same way. You have a goal. The mentor has the expertise and experience to lead you right to what you need to achieve this goal. They’ll even point you to the resources and give you some advice on achieving this goal.

The best mentors are the ones who give their mentees the skills to succeed. This means taking the time to teach them what to do, pointing them toward resources that will be useful, and even sometimes guiding them to the questions they should be asking.

Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket. King Solomon

To paraphrase this ancient proverb from the good king, great advice can actually serve as a highly valuable centrepiece that we can build a strategy around.

Every situation is relatively unique when it comes to mentoring. The best mentors are attuned to the needs of the moment. While a checklist might provide guidance in a general way, finely tuned instincts are needed to know what is called for.

For example, there are times when empathy is the answer and other times when it’s tough love and vice versa.

Today, you can find thousands of hours of content and advice on virtually any topic on Youtube alone.

It’s not the volume of information that’s valuable. Is it from a reliable source?  Can you boil it down into a simple system you can quickly implement?

Remember, sincerity, dedication, and a genuine desire to help that counts most for both parties. The rest is just icing on the cake.

Until next time,

 

 

 

                                                      Photo by Author 

Recent times have given us the opportunity to pause, reflect, perhaps change direction, or clarify what matters.

Pandemic restrictions have fostered an imposed simplicity of life and lifestyle that many were never previously accustomed to.

One outcome has been a resurgence of Minimalism. This countercultural movement has been around for centuries.

Minimalism has influenced art, music, design, architecture, science, business systems, and personal lifestyles.

I love it when an ancient concept comes roaring back with new relevance.

Wholesale changes in our lifestyle include spending less, saving more, working more simply from home, and rediscovering the great outdoors.

Me?  I loved it and lived it long before Marie Kondo started cleaning up, Elon Musk decided to sell all his houses, or some guys made a Netflix movie about it.

The recent past has allowed us some head-space to evaluate everything. I mean everything from how we “do life” and how we do “do business.”

If you hold vague negative feelings about things like consumerism, clutter, debt, and all forms of distraction, you’re well on the way toward a minimalist lifestyle.

Don’t freak out. It doesn’t mean you have to toss it all and adopt a monastic existence.

The basic tenets are to combat the chaotic excesses of modern-day living.

History abounds with minimalists who adopted a simple living lifestyle in support of a greater life mission.

JESUS OF NAZARETH   Rabbi | Prophet | Healer

“What shall it profit a man if he gains the whole world but loses his soul.”

CONFUCIUS  Philosopher | Chinese Mystic

“Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

 

LEONARDO DA VINCI – Inventor | Painter | Sculptor

“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

More recent examples include:

 HENRY DAVID THOREAU – Writer | Philosopher

“Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify, simplify! … Simplicity of life and elevation of purpose.”

LEO TOLSTOY – Author | Essayist | Educational Reformer

“There is no greatness where there is not simplicity.”

ALBERT EINSTEIN – Physicist | Nuclear Scientist | Scholar

“Three Rules of Work: Out of clutter find simplicity; From discord find harmony; In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”

More importantly, Minimalism has become a viable antidote to what I’ll call the info-demic. Never before have we been carpet-bombed with so much information. So often, the data is conflicting and confusing.

Like guard rails on a mountain road, or radar in the fog, there’s a measure of wisdom in functional Simplicity.

There’s really no manual or rulebook for adopting Minimalism.

Here’s my take on how it works in real life.

Desires and Expectations; Deliberately expecting less from those around me and the world, in general, allows me to appreciate what I have. That doesn’t mean I stop striving for better. I can only do the best I can, and others can only give what they’ve got. Often that leaves gaps of unmet expectations. Approaching those gaps with a measure of grace and understanding smooths the bumps. Sometimes you find pockets of joy along the way.

Possessions; This means being intentional about owning only what you really need. I’ve started ditching stuff that no longer serves a purpose and stopped buying things for the sake of ownership.  This frees up resources for me to be generous with the people and the causes that I love.

Relationships;  Minimalism in this realm is brutal to explain but here goes.

Relationships have different degrees of value. I think of them as relationship “buckets.”

Some are purely transactional– like the guy who cuts my hair. We have some friendly chit-chat about family and life, but that’s about it.

Then there’s the relational bucket. Here’s where I relate and stay in touch with many folks, but it’s more at the “acquaintance” level.

My standard Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram Disclaimer:

Hi Ray! Great to hear from you, and I hope you’re doing well. Thanks for your Invitation to connect, but it was probably an algorithm suggestion – right?  Fair warning – I’m a minimalist FaceBook contributor. I do enjoy staying in touch with what’s going on for others (minus cute cats and what so and so had for breakfast)  So – just so you know – my FB “friend” bar is pretty low. You don’t have to loan me money, bail me out of jail, or visit when I’m in “The Home” or anything.

This usually gets a good response and opens the door for further conversations.

Thirdly, there’s the transformational bucket. These are my “spark” people who inspire me with their intellect, wisdom, care, love, and humor. Time together is always an energizing, uplifting, and nourishing experience. Hopefully, I do the same for them.

In the end, it’s about discerning which relationships add genuine value and making enough time for those who mean the most to you.

Thought Life;  Thought life minimalism involves confidence to not over-think (worry), underthink (neglect), or race ahead to check off as many boxes as possible. It’s being present and engaged while keeping the bigger picture in mind. Each day is a chance to engage fully in the joys, triumphs, sorrows, fears, faults, and near misses that make up a life.  Each day is a chance to do better and make a difference for yourself and others.

A Myriad of Benefits

Go ahead. Google “Benefits of Minimalism,” and you’ll quickly get the picture.

Personally, I enjoy the less stress, more freedom aspect of Minimalism. The additional freedom allows me more time to be productive. It leaves more room for people and causes I care about. Decision making becomes much easier because either it fits my value system or it doesn’t

Wrap Up

You see, simplifying, and removing clutter, whether it’s figurative or literal, isn’t the end result – it’s merely the first step. Understanding why you’re doing this gives you the traction to keep going.

Until next time,

Lorne

 

 

Photo by Steve Harris on Unsplash

Amazing Ways We Fool Ourselves

Historically, April 1st should be the most light-hearted day of the year.

If ever we needed a splash of levity in our sea of seriousness, it’s now.

It’s a day of hoaxes, pranks, and practical jokes with people we love. The best part is nobody gets offended, at least they’re not supposed to. If the recipient responds with cursing or tears, you know things have gone too far.

It’s a chance for self-deprecating humor. It acknowledges that there’s a certain amount of folly that resides in each of us.

Back on April 1st,1976, the BBC nailed it. British astronomer Patrick Moore announced on BBC Radio 2 that at 9:47 AM, a once-in-a-lifetime astronomical event was going to occur. Listeners could experience this in their very own homes.

Due to this unique alignment of planets, the earth’s gravity would be reduced by a certain level. Whoever jumped with all their might at just the right time could possibly float in the air! People worldwide who hadn’t noticed the date were jumping up and down, hoping that they could achieve levitation. Other classics are the penguins of King George Island taking flight and the great spaghetti harvest.

Special day aside, there some amazing ways we fool ourselves year-round. Sometimes this comes with tragic consequences. It’s become more evident and rampant over this past year. That’s what I’m writing about this month.

Nobel prize-winning economist and social psychologist Daniel Kahneman states that we have two thinking systems. One thinking system is “fast” and the other, “slow.”

Fast thinking is the area where we can often fool ourselves.

We apply mental shortcuts, “hacks,” or biases when problem-solving or deciding things. It’s the realm of gut instincts, snap judgments, and hardwired systemic flaws in our thinking.

Slow thinking is a more deliberate examination of thoughts and motives.

We need both systems.

Biases are those deeply ingrained codes in our caveman software that can’t be quickly unlearned.

They have a profound impact on the following:

  • Our Perception – how we see people and perceive reality.
  • Our Attitude – how we react towards certain people.
  • Our Beliefs – how we interpret and respond to events
  • Our Behaviours – how receptive/friendly we are towards certain people.
  • Our Attention – which aspects of a person we pay most attention to.
  • Our Listening Skills – how much we actively listen to what certain people say.

It’s helpful to think of them as optical illusions. You know- things that appear to be there but really aren’t. Or that photo distortion app that makes for a very unflattering selfie.

Here are just five of the biases I’ve run into recently.

Negativity Bias (Good Plus Bad=Bad)

We want to think we’re rational, well-adjusted human beings, but our brains are naturally hardwired toward the negative.

Have you ever found yourself over-thinking a mistake you made a while ago? Are you replaying in your head a conversation that didn’t go so well?

That’s the negativity bias at play: not only do we register negative stimuli more readily, but we also tend to dwell on these events for longer.

A Queen’s University research study estimates the average person has about 6,200 thoughts per day. Other studies indicate that a high percentage (67%- 80%) are negative, and up to 95% are exactly the same repetitive thoughts as the day before.

So…if 80% of our thoughts are negative and 95% of them are repetitive, we have a serious “built-in” flawed perception problem.

Quite simply, negative events have a more significant impact on our mental state than positive ones.

Kahneman suggests an end-of-day exercise where we intentionally reflect on at least three good things that happened that day to bring positive counterbalance to our natural tendencies.

While the negativity bias may have been a helpful survival mechanism for our ancestors, today, it has a powerful—and often unconscious—impact on how we behave, think, and make decisions.

Groupthink Bias

Groupthink is a genuine phenomenon that happens when a group of well-meaning people makes dumb decisions to identify or belong to a particular group.

Another term for this is conformity bias.

In this scenario, any kind of dissent is unwelcome. Any reasoned questioning automatically makes one a social leper.

This bias is often fueled by a particular agenda—plus the fact that group members value harmony and coherence above critical thinking.

This bias causes people to simply “follow the herd” rather than thinking things through and using their own independent ethical judgment.

History is riddled with tragic examples of groupthink. The mass suicide known as the  Jonestown Massacre is just one of them. Hence the dark meme “Don’t drink the Kool-Aid.”

Confirmation Bias

Confirmation bias is the strong tendency of people to seek out information that exclusively supports views they already hold.  Evidence and information get interpreted in ways that affirm their pre-existing beliefs, expectations, and hypotheses.

Any contradicting evidence or information that may lead to a different conclusion is ignored.

A humorous illustration of this is the Texas Sharpshooter fallacy, where the cowboy unloads his pistol at the fence and then paints a bullseye around the closest cluster. He wants to believe he’s a good shot and manufactures proof to support that notion.

A close cousin to this is the Belief bias. If I believe something strongly enough, it must be true.

The question to be asked. Is this really true? Or do I just want it to be?

This thought pattern can easily lead to conclusions that are inaccurate or even unethical.

 

Diffusion of Responsibility Bias

Diffusion of responsibility occurs when a leader needs to decide but then waits for someone else to act instead. It becomes a ripple effect. The greater the number of people that are aware or involved, the more likely it is that each person will do nothing, believing someone else from the group will probably respond.

Psychologists John Darley and Bibb Latané set up a Bystander Apathy experiment where a distress call made it appear that a person nearby had suffered an injury. When subjects heard the cry, and though they were the only ones who heard it, 85% of them helped.  But if subjects thought there was another person who heard the call too, only 62% helped. And if subjects thought that four other people also listened to the cry for help, just 31% took action.

Diffusion of responsibility makes us feel less pressure to act because we believe, correctly or incorrectly, that someone else will do it. When we don’t feel responsible for a situation, we feel less guilty when we do nothing to help.

In this way, diffusion of responsibility keeps us from paying attention to doing the right thing or ignoring our own conscience.

It’s complicated, but there is hope. Here’s a TEDx explainer.

Self-Serving Bias

The self-serving bias is where we seek out information and use it in ways that advance personal self-interest. We often unconsciously make selfish decisions other people might view as questionable.

It can also take the form of a person taking credit for positive events or outcomes, but blaming outside factors for negative events.

The irony is that we can easily spot this trait in others, but we have difficulty seeing it in ourselves.

An example might be doctors who believe that they are immune from the influence of gifts they receive from pharmaceutical companies. Studies show those gifts have a significant effect on what medications doctors prescribe. One study found that 64% of doctors believed that the freebies they received from suppliers influenced other doctors. However, only 16% of doctors thought it affected their own actions.

So, the self-serving bias often blinds us to how we are prejudice in favor of ourselves. Indeed, it can cause even the most well-intentioned of us to overlook our own wrong actions completely.

To summarize, these five biases are just a small random sampling. The good news is that when we encounter them, we can switch to “think slow “ mode and ask some questions.

Here are some helpful questions the I borrowed from Annie Duke’s book THINKING IN BETS

  • Why might my belief not be true?
  • What other evidence might be out there bearing on my belief?
  • Are there similar areas I can look toward to gauge whether similar beliefs to mine are true?
  • What sources of information could I have missed or minimized on the way to reaching my belief?
  • What are the reasons someone else could have a different belief, what’s their support, and why might they be right instead of me?
  • What other perspectives are there as to why things turned out the way they did?

Hope this helps,

Until next time,

 

Lorne

 

 

 

 

Regret Has A Dark Side 

Here Are Three Ways To Overcome It In 2021

Well now. Didn’t see that coming!  Regrettable. Tragic. Heartbreaking. Painful. Difficult.
It’s like the cosmos did a once-in-a-century hit-and-run and there’s no going back to the way things were.

Whether we like it or not, we’re all in some kind of in-between space and dealing with some form of loss.

It’s been a universal public stress test and a very uncomfortable patience-builder.

I firmly believe that we have been changed in profound ways by this year, and probably will continue to be.

Our hopes rise and fall like a yo-yo in tandem with the daily tally of new infections, hospitalizations, deaths, jobless claims, government relief action and inaction, the latest news on therapeutics and vaccines, school opening and closings, and so much more.

Too soon to breathe a collective sigh of relief?

As much as I’d like for that to happen, I think we’re still in for more uncertainty at least for a while longer.

You see, I’m writing as much to myself as anyone else.

I resolved a long time ago to live life with as few regrets as possible.
How’s that going?

Pretty much OK, but I’ve got to admit, the impact of the past year has brought this area back into sharp focus.

Regret comes up a lot. It is a recurring conversation theme with many of my colleagues, clients, friends, and acquaintances.

No one seems immune. It doesn’t matter if you’re an up and coming professional or a hardworking barista, sooner or later you encounter the effects of cumulative loss.

Personal freedoms lost. Opportunities lost. Health or income losses. Time lost. Pandemic fatigue is real and I think we’re all allowed the occasional crank-out or bout of cynicism.

Even the indomitable Michelle Obama is admitting to low-grade depression due to quarantine.

The long term effects of regret (a form of grieving) are well documented. Not only is it detrimental to our mental health, but it also has physiological effects as well.

The litany of nasty side effects can include sleeplessness, heart disease, diabetes, addiction, and eating disorders.

How To Face Regrets Head On 

Practice Intentional Change Adaptation 

Innumerable changes have been foisted on us and there are numerous rationales we feed ourselves that make us resistant to change.

How many times have we needed to “pivot” in 2020? (plans changed, course reversed, gears shifted, etc.)

We all know people who haven’t been able to change with the times. Sooner or later they slide into irrelevance.

Our brains are just wired to prefer the familiar.

The good news here is that we can be intentional about metabolizing change. How we feel about it is less relevant than trying to understand why the change is needed, then make the necessary personal or professional adjustments.

Another piece of good news is the more you engage with change the easier it becomes. Keeping a clear sense of personal mission and an end goal in mind makes moving through changes easier.

Fighting the irrelevance that comes with not changing helps keep things on track in the face of discouragement, delays, and setbacks.

Have A Self-Care Routine That Works 

Well-being is a key aspect of living a truly successful, satisfying life even through challenging times. What does that actually mean?

It means tapping into a daily, weekly, and monthly rhythm that supports your health and well-being.

It should, at the bare minimum, include getting enough sleep, fresh air, recreation, and a balanced allocation of time and activity in the seven areas of optimal living (Body, Mind, Spirit, Work, Love, Play, Money)

Body – Our energy levels, diet, stamina and strength, sufficient sleep.

Mind – The ability to focus and learn new things.

Spirit- Care for that intangible life force at the core of our existence.

Work- Meaningful and financially rewarding career, business, or profession.

Love- The quality of our relationships.

Money- How we utilize finances.

Play – Our recreational options.

All of these areas are vital to our existence. If even one of these areas is short-changed, or out of whack, personal well-being gets messed up pretty quickly.

Lead With Gratitude 

This actually works if you dig in and do it.

There’s plenty of scientific data to back it up.

In his book, A Simple Act of Gratitude author John Kralik set out to write 365 thank-you notes over the course of a year.

Initially, he did it as a way to feel less hopeless during a time when he wasn’t sure his life was worth living. But with each letter he wrote and tracked, he was able to literally count his blessings.

At the same time, the act of sitting down each day with pen and paper helped to retrain his brain to focus more on the good things in life and less on the bad.

But Kralik didn’t just write letters. He also made a practice of answering simple “how-are-you?” with things he was grateful for rather than complaints.

“Gratitude gives us a break from regret and despair”

Personally, I’ve found that gratitude gets me out of my own self-absorbed head, and soon it becomes just plain fun.

It is so much more helpful than focussing on all the ways life is unjust or imperfect.

Does that mean I’m turning a blind eye to poverty, racism, social justice, climate change, and other important issues?

Nope.

Color me weird, but gratitude regularly reminds me of the important things I’m standing for, fighting for, and want to see change.

It also is a great way to sustain and build relationships. Relationships are necessary for any good fight. We can’t be in this alone. Telling people that we value them and their contributions is the very least we can do.

For me, giving thanks each day has made truly tough times more bearable. For that, I’m thankful.

Thanks also for the important work you do!

Until next time,

Lorne

 

COMPLICATED VERSUS COMPLEX
You Don’t Need To Be A Brainiac To Spot the Difference

I think we can agree that the world became a more complex place in 2020. The grand irony is that I chose “simplify” as one of my guiding themes for this year. Little did I know that enforced simplicity was headed my way. Lots of things became more simple (i.e. staycations) while other things accelerated towards complicated.
Rapidly evolving circumstances pushed even more things beyond complicated, into the complexity zone.

Most of us think of degrees of complication. The first is simple, the second is complicated and the third is complex. Many leaders I know mistakenly believe complexity is just a higher order of complicatedness as if there is some sort of continuum.  Umm….  Not so!

I’m an ardent fan of straight-forward simple. Simple never really equates with “easy”,  but once achieved, simple is elegant and functional.

Decision-makers commonly mistake complex systems for simply complicated ones and look for solutions without realizing that ‘learning to dance’ with a complex system is definitely different from ‘solving’ the problems arising from it. — Roberto Poli

I’m borrowing heavily from the work of European scholar Roberto Poli, `who writes about Anticipatory  Futures and Systems Theories.

Most complicated situations can be compartmentalized, reverse engineered, and put back together in a workable fashion.

Complexity on the other hand is a whole different animal.

And This Is Important Why? 
Leaders and decision-makers who try to tackle complexity the same way as they deal with complications, soon find themselves mired in futility. It’s much like trying to brush your hair with a toothbrush or nail Jell-O to the wall. It takes an entirely different approach to mindset, skillset, and toolset.

As a coach and consultant, I often get asked to provide a “once and for all” solution to intractable problems that are mislabeled as complicated, when they really are complex.

While much of my life as an executive was in the context of complex issues, I can’t say I’ve always been super successful at it. After a while, the characteristics that differentiate merely complicated scenarios from complex ones become evident.

Being able to identify these quite often is the key determining factor in good outcomes.

Here are five differentiators to help sort things out.   

1. Identifying Root Causes 

Complicated: Has a fairly linear cause-and-effect trajectory where you can pinpoint the individual cause and observe its effects.
Complex: Characterized by patterns of multiple intertwining and overlapping causes. Root causes may be disguised as other things. There’s no real straight line cause-to-effect relationship.
Takeaway: Much time can be squandered trying to analyze root causes in a complex situation. Usually, complex situations in organizations evolve from a host of combined factors over extended time and aren’t quickly or easily reversed.

2. Knowing if there’s a Timeline 

Complicated: Has a finite timeline where you can reasonably predict outcomes. Every output of the system has a commensurate input.
Complex: There isn’t an easily predictable timeline. Outputs in the organizational eco-system aren’t necessarily proportional or linearly related to inputs. Small changes in one part of the system can cause sudden and unexpected outputs in other parts of the system.
Takeaway: Large and costly initiatives can have zero impact, while one misspeak in an email can lead to a chain reaction of revolt. Small “safe-to-fail” experiments are more informative and useful than large projects designed to be fail-safe.

3. Can it be reduced to it’s simplest parts?

Complicated: We can break things down and isolate structural components to better comprehend how things work between the various parts.
Complex: We can’t presume to fully comprehend all the moving parts. Because complexity is a shifting target, conventional approaches and familiar change tools have little or no effect.
Takeaway:  Complex systems are emergent, they are greater than the sum of their parts … we need to interact or “dance” with the system in order to influence it. We also need to understand that our mere presence is already changing things.

4. Is it Controllable?

Complicated: You have a bit of a framework or structure to contain and control problems while they get diagnosed and solved.
Complex:  Complex problems emerge from multiple random moving parts in an unstructured way, so it’s difficult to distinguish the combination of real problems. Even the smallest well-intentioned interventions may result in disproportionate and unintended consequences.
Takeaways: Fluid complexity is prone to bring surprises and uncertainty. Knee jerk interventions can bring unexpected changes and even new or worse challenges. Leaders need to shift the “problem/solution” thinking to “evolving patterns” thinking.

5. Are There Constraints? (Boundaries or Guardrails)

Complicated: Complicated can usually be defined by some kind of sandbox or context.
Complex: Complex systems are more open, to the extent that it is often difficult to determine where the system ends and another start. Complex systems are can also be nested part of larger trends, ideology, or movement. It can become hard to separate the system from its context.
Takeaway: Context matters, ignore it at your peril. As soon as organizations become too internally focused, the naval-gazing makes them vulnerable. Making sure that adequate and diverse feedback mechanisms are in place is a key strategic imperative.

Wrapping Up 

When dealing with complexity, keep expectations realistic. Getting to “maybe” might just be as good as it gets.
It will always take longer than you thought, and the end results may not be what you expected. From experience, it’ll always be worth the journey.
Complexity does demand a new breed of leadership. Today’s successful leader is relational vs. organizational, permission-giving vs.command & control. He or she works in overlapping circles vs. being linear and hierarchical.
Me – I’m still working on it. 

Until next time,
Stay safe,
Stay strong,
Lorne

References: A Note on the Difference Between Complicated and Complex Social Systems, Roberto Poli, 2013

Photo Courtesy Lucas Ludwig on Unsplash

 THE CURSE of “INTERESTING TIMES” and A FEW ANTIDOTES

“May you live in interesting times”- Unknown 

This Confucius-style saying poses as a blessing while delivering an underhanded curse.

If received as a “curse”, it wishes that your times be filled with turmoil and difficulty.
It’s a buzzkill observation when misfortune, hardship, and mayhem seem to hold more interest for us than do peace, prosperity, and calm.

BTW- There are way more history books written about war and famine, than about peace and plenty.

If the saying is received as an affirmation or blessing, the ferment of change always opens the door to exciting new possibilities.

Certainly, we can agree that our current pickle, being in the middle of a full-throttle,  global pandemic qualifies as “interesting”. With the first psychological shock waves subsiding, we’re in a pervasive, collective reality that adversely impacts us all.

Maybe it’s Murphy’s Law gone wild, or maybe we’re at the bottom of a big honking learning curve with a very steep upside.

As the COVID-19 crisis persists, no training or experience in previous downturns has prepared us for it.

Governments, businesses, schools, hospitals, churches, and families are all scrambling to cope with the insidious nature of our current era.

Over the past months, I’ve had numerous personal conversations with fellow leaders about the current situation and its greatest challenges. The current over-all toughest challenge is the mind-numbing complexity brought about by uncertainty.
The frustrations spilled over.

“It seems that every way I turn these days, I’m facing a no-win-situation” Young CEO in the Charity Sector. 

“ It’s like I really have four jobs. There’s the one I signed up for, you know, the job description. Then there’s the job my board expects me to do. My staff has high expectations of me to help them do their job while keeping them safe. Finally, there are the expectations of stakeholders and investors. The pandemic has really complicated all of this”. CEO in the Housing and Community Services Sector.

I launched these conversations to research an online leadership development project that I’m working on. The results were much broader and richer than I anticipated. It will inform my work for some time to come.

If we take a good news/bad news approach, the bad news is that uncertainty is non-negotiable. It’s the X factor that seems to lurk around every corner.

It’s just that recently there’s been so much of it.

The addendum to this is that “Our brains perceive ambiguity as a threat, and they try to protect us by diminishing our ability to focus on anything other than creating certainty,” says Christine Carter, Ph.D., a Senior Fellow at the Greater Good Science Center.

If we are in a state of perpetual high alert, preparing for potential bad events, this results in a chronic stress pattern build-up. Physiological symptoms are mental churning, random anger at the slightest of provocations, being perma-cranky,
or feeling physically drained for no apparent reason.

On the flip side, the good news is that there’s a trail forward. There’s always a way forward. It’s just that it’s not always real obvious.

The trailhead is the realization that you can take charge of everything within your control and be intentional or mindful about not worrying about the things you can’t.

This valuable principle has been around for centuries.

Epictetus, the Greek philosopher from the early 2nd  century observed that things are either under our control or not under our control.

His Enchiridion (The Good Life Handbook) begins with this basic idea.

“Some things are within our power, while others are not. Within our power are opinion, motivation, desire, aversion, and, in a word, whatever is of our own doing; not within our power are our body, our property, reputation, office, and, in a word, whatever is not of our own doing.” Epictetus

This truth-powered concept is echoed in the well-known 20th century Christian Serenity Prayer;

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, Courage to change the things I can, And wisdom to know the difference. – Reinhold Nieburh 1934. 

Regardless of your worldview, the idea of focusing on the actions and experiences within your control has been around for centuries.  It’s as valid and effective today as it was back then.

Another Approach I’ve Been Thinking About…

Minimum Viable Outcomes

Another approach for tackling the complexities of uncertainty is the idea of a Minimum Viable Outcome combined with small wins.
The main elements are core activity, realistic expectations with small wins, and forward momentum in a strategic direction.

Protect the main thing! 

Minimum Viable Outcome (MVO) refers to those core activities that you do best while paying attention to the small margins between success or failure.
What really needs to happen next?
And why is it important?
What’s the smallest measurable outcome I can deliver to address this?

Set realistic expectations! 

It doesn’t have to be perfect. Perfect almost never is.
What would be a small win in the right direction?
Small wins can be the super fuel of your inner work life.
It’s great for your mental health AND it can help catalyze and inspire others.

Find your trail!

It’s hard to steer a parked car. Things work so much better if you generate some forward momentum.
Momentum comes when you begin taking some small steps. Take them in a direction that makes the most sense.
Take them humbly and with fingers crossed.
Make mindful note of your progress.
Progress isn’t like flipping a switch or having one big AHA moment. It usually comes in a small series, more like a slowly dawning revelation.

Like you, I have good days and bad days that toggle between optimism and pessimism. I can go from seeing optimistic signs of progress in the morning to feeling doomed by dinner. (watching the news cycle doesn’t help)
It’s OK to stay informed while battling the urge to tune everything out. The flood of information can both important and overwhelming. I find myself switching between outbreak updates and wanting to mindlessly watch silly Netflix videos. (that’s so not me)

On the whole, I’m confident we’ll get through this. Trying to figure out what “this” is and what it means, can be exhausting.

If you’ll pardon me, I have to go decide which shirt to wear on my next Zoom call.

Until next time,
Stay safe,
Stay strong,

Lorne

 

I’m not a patient person, so waiting in line for anything, anytime, is a detestable activity to be strenuously avoided. Some part of me decided a long time ago that there are some things that life is just too short for. Waiting in lineups is one of those things. Let’s just call it one of my useful biases.

Lineups represent “waiting” in general. That Invariably triggers other stuff. Waiting for that promotion that never seems to come, that colleague who procrastinates, the boss who can’t decide, the deal that takes forever to close. (There’s got to be a support group somewhere for folks like us)

Mass enforced waiting due to the COVID 19 Pandemic has made our collective psyche more than just a bit uptight.

That may in part explain some of the dramatic social upheaval dominating our headlines.

It’s taken the waiting game to a whole new level.

It also has reduced our attention spans so if you make it all the way through this post, then congratulations! A special treat awaits.


“Please Wait Here” has become the iconic symbol of our times. 
Seeing that you’re just standing here, I could tell you a COVID joke, but then we’d have to wait for two weeks just to see if you got it.
With much of our world experiencing some degree of disruption, distancing, or discouragement, this obviously isn’t the happiest of times.
Waiting has become an unavoidable part of it. ANYWAY…,

Let’s all resolve to come out of 2020 smarter, better, and stronger.

As always, thanks for reading. It means a lot to me. Lorne 

Photo Courtesy of Raquel Garcia in Unsplash ​

Why Waiting Can Make Us a Wee Bit Bonkers
(it’s actually not the wait that drives you crazy)

In researching this, I learned that there is a bit of an art and science to waiting.
I came across an excellent piece written by business author David Maister who wrote on this topic some years ago.
I’m borrowing heavily from his key points. 
  

Occupied Time Feels Shorter Than Unoccupied Time.

That’s why business often strategically place mirrors in high wait zones like elevators, waiting rooms and even gymnasiums. What better way to occupy a wait than the inane activity of looking at yourself or others while waiting for that “UP” arrow or taking a mandatory rest between reps.
Then there’s always that default activity of looking at your smart phone. What better way to appear cool and confident while trapped in a wait zone? Mea culpa on that one myself.

People Just Want to Get On With Things (rather that wait to get going) 

Anticipatory stress while waiting for something to happen makes it feel like we’re waiting much longer than we actually are. That’s why physiological stress symptoms like tension headaches or stomach nerves often appear ahead of key meetings, presentations or difficult conversations.

 Anxiety Makes Waits Seem Longer.

“Waiting + Anxiety = Seriously Not Good”

Waiting plus a strong undercurrent of anxiety is crazy-making stuff.
We’ve all had the experience of choosing a line at Ikea, the bank, or the airport, and stood there worrying that we had indeed, chosen the wrong line.
A debate with yourself ensues as you try to decide whether to move, or switch to another line. The anxiety level ramps up and the wait becomes intolerable.
Being a leader in circumstances where your entire team is anxious and wanting to switch lines is especially difficult.

 Open-ended Waits Are Longer than Waits with a Time Frame 

At the doctor’s office, patients who arrive early will sit contentedly until the scheduled time, even if this is a significant amount of time in an absolute sense (say, thirty minutes). However, once the appointment time is passed, even a short wait of, say, ten minutes, grows increasingly annoying. The wait until the appointed time is finite; waiting beyond the point has no knowable limit.

Unexplained Waits Are Longer than Explained Waits

If the doctor’s receptionist informs me that doc just got called out to an emergency and offers a re-schedule, I can wait with greater patience.

Airline pilots also understand this principle well. On-board announcements usually reference baggage being a bit late, fog over landing strips, safety checks, or waiting for the air-traffic controllers’ runway instructions. Explanations may have varying degrees of veracity, but they are way better than no explanation at all.

Unfair Waits Are Longer than Equitable Waits

In traffic jams, (a vehicular form of lineup) where you don’t know the cause of the delay or the timeline for getting going again, the level of anxiety is demonstrably high. Situations like this are fertile ground for incidents of road rage.

In other wait situations, facilities have a “take a number” system where you are served in strict numerical order. Often the number being served is prominently displayed so that customers can estimate the expected waiting times.

 The Higher the Perceived Value, The Longer People Will Wait

This explains why ardent fans will camp out on the sidewalk days in advance of an event to get priority positioning for their favorite band or artist.

Disney Corp. marketing folks work this to perfection. They are so successful that they get parents with young children to happily stand in line for an hour for a four-minute ride — a pretty remarkable feat.

This illustrates the principle that wait tolerance largely depends upon perceived value of service, -perhaps with the emphasis on the perception.

Solo Waits Feel Longer than Group Waits

One of the remarkable things to observe in these Pandemic times is to witness how conventional social isolation suddenly has become cool. People with zero connection now have a common threat and a common bond

Total strangers suddenly turn to each other from 6 ft. away to express their exasperation, wonder collectively what is happening, and console each other. What this illustrates is that there is some form of comfort in group waiting rather than waiting alone.

WAITING IS NEVER EASY! Sometimes having a better understanding and awareness of a situation helps. It doesn’t make the waiting time any shorter, but it does make it more acceptable or bearable to those of us who wait.

You still here?

Here’s that treat I promised.

See STAY IN QUEUE from Laboratoire Ferdinand Lutz Enjoy.

FYI – I’M PRESENTLY REACHING OUT TO SOME OF YOU FOR HELP WITH AN IMPORTANT RESEARCH QUESTION. IT’S FOR AN ONLINE COURSE CONCEPT I’M PLANNING FOR THE FALL. IT WILL BE SPECIFICALLY FOR EMERGING LEADERS AND EXPERIENCED LEADERS WHO WANT TO “LEVEL UP”.  Thanks to those of you who already helped out in this way. Thanks also to those of who have booked a future research conversation. I appreciate your valuable insights.

If you are interested in knowing more or participating in this, I’d love to speak with you about this. Just click the link below and book a time for a 15-20 minute Zoom conversation.

Until next time,
Lorne

Click here for a ” time