The call for courageous leadership in days like these is more important than ever.

Why?

Because authentic leaders find their mojo in times of great uncertainty.

Now’s not the time for a predefined response plan.

It requires leaders with behaviors and mindsets that deal with the realities, prevent overreaction, and lay the groundwork for a better tomorrow.

The Panic

Photo Courtesy of Unsplash

 “Everyone has a plan ’til they get punched in the mouth.”  M. Tyson  

This quip came from world champion boxer Mike Tyson when a reporter asked him about his “fight plan” for an upcoming opponent.

It captures that sinking feeling of panic and disorientation when things go horribly wrong.

Seemingly overnight, jobs flew out the window, vibrant businesses failed and investments tanked. Everyone I know is struggling to cope. If your health or family routines have been turned upside down its little comfort that this is happening across the nation and around the world. A whole new 27 million North Americans had to claim unemployment these past few weeks.

Science tells us that when we face threatening change, our “caveman software” kicks in. Suddenly fight, flight or freeze responses are triggered and we experience a flood of random emotions from anger, denial, anxiety to just plain old fear. Composure dissipates. We’re not at our best

Now’s the time to take a deep breath, literally and figuratively, and decide what really matters. Rely on your faith, training, experience, skill, and instincts to figure out the next right thing to do. Then move towards that in the very best way that you can.

We’ll likely have to shelter in place for a while longer.

There’s a lot of uncertainty between now and our new normal, the next normal, and the never normal.

There will likely be false “all clear” in some regions. There may be future spikes. But everything will play out.

It’ll be different, but ok.

The Pause 

“April seems like it lasted a year and March seems like a distant lifetime ago”

The forced suspension of plans, travel, schedules, and times with family and friends pale in comparison to the real devastation of lives lost. The daily news updates tell the story.

There’s unfathomable grief for those who’ve lost loved ones to this insidious pandemic. There is care and concern for those who are suffering loss and genuine economic hardship.

The things we learned?
We learned that shaking hands can be deadly.
That the economy can stop overnight.
We’re all more vulnerable and fragile than we’d like to believe.
How people can bond in adversity, and how isolating lockdown can feel.

There is also a slowly dawning reality.

While health care workers and home-schooling parents are busier than ever, much of the rest of the world has come to a screeching halt.

Streets are emptier, the air is cleaner, even at a distance, people seem friendlier and more supportive.

Perhaps a growing recognition that life just got simpler?

Perhaps the whole world as we know it just got a cosmic “time out”.

We’ve suddenly been given a windfall gift of time. A chance to reset. A chance to reflect how fragile, human, and inter-dependant we actually are.

Processing Forward 

When friends, colleagues, and clients are making hard decisions about, layoffs, personal futures, and whether or not to keep the business doors open, the best thing I can do is stifle my internal advice monster and simply “be there” for them.

Many of the questions I’m being asked these days don’t have easy answers.

Talking things through to cope with the present seems to be the foremost healing conversation.

Some sample questions and scenarios I’m coming across:

“When does this end? I wish I knew when this would all be over.”
Often this question masks deeper concerns.  My response is usually something like, “What part of this have you found to be the hardest?”
This allows us to identify and talk through those deeper concerns.

“What’s something you’ve learned during this crisis you would have never expected?” 
This uncovers hidden capabilities and resilience.

“What’s one thing you hope remains after this crisis?” 
We can acknowledge things we’ve discovered that we actually enjoy — like the perks of remote work and extra family time.
It helps to see past the current challenges.

“What’s the absolute  worst thing you could imagine happening from all of this?”
This helps sort through real concerns vs. irrational or imagined concerns.
Those prone to worry have trouble distinguishing between what’s “possible” and what’s “probable”.

What is something you’re looking forward to when things somewhat normalize?  
Having some well-defined goals can have a powerful effect to mitigate anxiety.

Coping with current reality while laying the groundwork better days is leadership job 1.

Until next time,

Lorne

 

Feel free to connect with me here and Let’s Just talk 

 

JUST FLY THE PLANE!

Focus on what matters.

It’s both profound and eerie to be living out this moment in history in real-time.

Everything happened so fast.

And it keeps on happening in waves. It overwhelms.

History, as you and I are living it, has taken a pivot toward the unknown.
We can feel the change, even as so many things stay the same.
But we can’t know where it will end. We watch instead and stew.
We scroll through all the news trying to filter out “what does this mean for me?”

The confirmed cases.
The jobs lost.
Empty schools.
The businesses to be closed.
Quarantine?
Isolation?
Potential worldwide recession?

We watched the world change and the future shrink this week.

It turns out timelines only really matter when you’re feeling safe.

A few short days ago we could speak of five-year plans. Today, even next month feels impossible to see.

Gotta admit that  I’m finding it hard to process all this. This degree of change and overwhelm plays havoc with our human sense of pace and scale.

Just Fly the Plane!

Like you, I’m finding it hard to focus forward right now.

This has become an anchoring phrase or mantra for me.

“Just fly the plane” is a phrase from one of my favorite books called “The Checklist Manifesto” by Atul Gawande. 

He gives an actual sample of the checklist for ENGINE FAILURE DURING FLIGHT.

The very first item on the list is “Fly the Airplane!.
Beyond that, instructions are surprisingly sparse.

In times of extreme crisis, as pilots run through worst-case scenarios,
they need a reminder to focus on the most important job they have, flying the airplane.

Figuring out what really matters at this moment is the job of a leader.

From there on, it’s all about relying on your training, experience, skill, and instincts to figure out the next right thing to do and then do it the very best that you can.

The priority is to focus on our primary responsibilities; our family, our friends, our faith, our businesses.

As we are forced to slow down, there is an opportunity to do the work we’ve put off amid the swirl and busy-ness to which we are constantly subjected.
But we may need to be reminded. It may need to be the first item on the list.

Suddenly, all of that stuff I’ve put off, all of the things I meant to get to personally and professionally are available for me to do now.

Why I Like Checklists

It’s easy to scoff at checklists when we think of them as scrawled reminders or a glorified to-do list.

However, when a checklist outlines what really matters In a concise user-friendly format, it becomes a powerful tool.

A few things on my pandemic strategy checklist are:

1. Keeping some things that are familiar and at the same time establishing some new routines that support self-care- physical, mental, spiritual, emotional.

2. Being available for “friend support” and staying connected with you and others who are important in my life, even though we’re socially isolating and distancing.

3. Practicing self-discipline by putting some boundaries on “worry time”. I.E. not over-saturating with ongoing updates. It’s good to stay informed. Overdoing it can lead to anxiety-fuelled fatigue.

4. Getting back to some of those personal and work projects that have been waiting. Especially those under finished “deep work” type projects that require uninterrupted focus.

5.Taking things (and days) one at a time. Finding ways to help and support others less fortunate.

6. Finding gratitude and joy in the things that I can do. Making a checklist of things to get back to once this blows over.

I can’t pretend to know what happens next.
I do know that you and I still have work to do, and as we try to understand all that’s happening.

We all have to focus forward.

Stay safe.
Stay healthy.
Stay home (if you can)

Until next time,
Lorne

Are you finding this article useful? There’s more at #HeyWhatsNext?

PS I’m working with several clients right now to chart their course through this unique moment.

Each business has challenges, but each call ends with greater clarity.

Each person leaves with a plan that makes sense for them, even in times of uncertainty.
If your mind is spinning and you’re trying to figure out the next steps for yourself or your business, let’s talk.

All you need for our first call is your time and attention; I’ll bring mine as well. Ready to get started? Let’s connect.

What Does Success Look Like For You ? How Do You Know When You Get There?
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Like You, I Wonder About “Success”.  How Do You Know When You Arrive?

Are there “stages of? ….building blocks for?….  formulas or recipes?

It’s a big topic so let’s get it popping.

True story:

I recently ran into a business friend from many years ago.

We’d known each other when we were both grinding it out through a dismal time in the construction industry.

We’d agreed to catch up over a Starbucks. Now here we were.

Phil is a burly guy with a kind of brusque manner and voice that is permanently set on “outdoor” volume.

After some opening banter, he pauses and then declares (outside voice).

“I googled you man. You’re a freaking 40-year overnight success!”

The conversations around us fell silent. I could feel multiple laser stares aimed right at me.

His spontaneous outburst and the absurd hilarity of it all caught me off guard. Something welled up and I bust out laughing and couldn’t stop.

He joined in full volume, enjoying the dramatic effects of his own comedic delivery. When our moment of mirth subsided, the surrounding conversations came back to the normal Starbucks level.

As with any honest humor, it’s usually wrapped around a nugget of truth. This was no different.

Examples of “success” in any field if examined, come after a ton of hard work, sacrifices made and obstacles overcome over extended periods of time.

“Success is walking from failure to failure with no loss of enthusiasm.”    -Winston Churchill

When you talk “success” and how you actually define or quantify it, the definition tends to vary.

A quick G search of the word renders 210 million hits in .64 seconds so it’s obviously top of mind for lots of people.

For some folks, it’s about money.  Ok, probably for most folks that’s the measuring stick for comparison.

For others, it might be house size or being able to travel to faraway places. For others, it’s about a relationship to their family; for some it’s faith, and for many, it’s honestly just staying alive another month. The definition of the term will change relative to where you’re at in life, probably dozens of times.

The part I love most about my work is helping clients figure out what success looks like for them. Then we start navigating obstacles, achieving more or getting better at something – a.k.a. becoming “successful.”

Because most of us spend on average 1/3 of our life (about half of our waking hours) pursuing a livelihood to make ends meet, it’s important to have some sort of scaffolding or contextual framework around how to think about this concept.

From observation and experience, there are some underlying factors to success in any realm.

Wealth is definitely an easily understood way of keeping score, but if that‘s the only way then look out!

Ok – back to the point.

 

Because the wealth/success thing has such an overshadowing effect,  I’ll get it out of the way in this months’ post.

We’ll deal with the other success factors in future posts.

“Try not to become a man of success. Rather become a man of value.”  ― Albert Einstein 

A Remarkable Essay

I love it when someone else writes a brilliant article around something I’ve been thinking. Moreover, they absolutely nail it.

In this instance, kudos to American venture capitalist Morgan Housel who has provided a remarkable essay ranking every type of wealth and poverty.

It’s equal parts enlightening, entertaining, surprising and useful for perspective.

Stage one of 19 on the wealth spectrum begins where you would expect – complete dependence on others for sustenance – but quickly jumps to people who have money and assets but are impoverished in other ways.

Stage four is a cautionary tale, “Your lifestyle expectations consistently grow faster than your income and assets. Adaptive poverty.” Stage seven is too: “Your entire personality is built upon the appearance of being wealthy, attracting a predatory social group that will abandon you.”

The stages of wealth start looking attractive around number 13, where you love your job enough that it feels like a hobby and pays more than you ever expected.

I’ll let you go on to discover the highest stage of wealth – the psychological equivalent of the Forbes billionaires list.

If we command our wealth, we shall be rich and free; if our wealth commands us, we are poor indeed.  –Edmund Burke  

 

The overriding revelation in the piece is that wealth is often as much a matter of perspective as it is a sum of money.

Folks who are deeply envious and generally insecure are unlikely to feel wealthy no matter how big their investment account becomes.

Those with close family ties and social connections can feel content with far less.

Another poignant revelation of this innovative list is that we often fail to recognize the wealth of all types that we already have.

Here Are The 19 Stages Of Wealth

  1. Complete reliance on the kindness of strangers for sustenance. Deep poverty.
  2. Your income is above average but you are overcome with envy and a feeling of inadequacy towards those who earn more. Psychological deep poverty.
  3. You have a large income and net worth that was acquired in a way that brings active disdain from people who would otherwise want to like you. Socially bankrupt.
  4. Your lifestyle expectations consistently grow faster than your income and assets. Adaptive poverty.
  5. You have so much money you can do nothing, and doing nothing leads to boredom at best, self-destruction more often. Ironic poverty.
  6. You have a large income and net worth you are satisfied with, but your career and assets are fragile (often leveraged) and will disappear when the world shifts only a little leaving you yearning for the money you used to have and became accustomed to. Pent-up poverty.
  7. Your entire personality is built upon the appearance of being wealthy, attracting a predatory social group that will abandon you without remorse the moment the money stops.
  8. You have a large income and net worth that was made in a job you hate that requires such long hours that it derails your social and family life. Financial wealth, life poverty.
  9. You have a job you love surrounded by people you enjoy but one that doesn’t pay well and leaves you vulnerable and stressed about your finances. Financial poverty, life wealth.
  10. You have enough money to stay comfortable and a good group of friends but you didn’t earn the money yourself, creating a lack of pride and ability to appreciate the value of a dollar that makes you feel poorer than someone with less money that was earned from hard, meaningful work.
  11. You can afford a little bit more than the people you interact with daily and it makes you feel superior to them. Technical wealth but actually insecurity that’s likely to backfire into social poverty.
  12. You can afford a little more than the people you interact with daily but you still live the same material lifestyle as they do, which creates social cohesion among your friends that’s valuable. You have a high savings rate that puts a gap between your mood and most financial hassle.
  13. You like your job so much it doesn’t feel like work and it pays more than you ever expected to make.
  14. You could stop earning a paycheck tomorrow and your lifestyle could remain the same for the indefinite future.
  15. You can go to bed and wake up when you want to. You have time to exercise, eat well, learn, think slowly, and clear your calendar when you want it to be clear. Health wealth.
  16. You can, and want to, use your wealth to help other people. And you want to help them because you care about them, not because it will make you look good or make them beholden to you.
  17. You genuinely feel no benefit from the social signal of wealth, because everyone you want to love you would still love you if you weren’t wealthy. So everything you spend money on is for its utility, rather than glitz.
  18. The people you love the most will have to work hard in life, but your wealth provides them a safety net that will help them avoid undue hardship.
  19. You are respected and admired by people you want to respect and admire you regardless of your financial circumstances. Psychologically speaking, you’re now on the Forbes list of billionaires.

“I’m a success today because I had a friend who believed in me and I didn’t have the heart to let him down.” ― Abraham Lincoln

Phil’s perception of my alleged success was that somehow I had “arrived”.

My read on the same scenario was that I was merely “staying on track and keeping going.”

Huh! Guess that’s the kind of stuff that makes life interesting.

Like Abe,  I had some friends who believed in me. I didn’t want to let them down.

Until next time!

Note to Reader:  This “Success” article will probably wind up being one of a three-part series into 2020, so stay tuned.

 

 

 

(Don’t Try This Alone)

“As humans, we’re hardwired to connect with others. Direct contact matters: tight bonds of friendship and love heal us, help children learn, extend our lives and make us happy. -Susan Pinker

It felt like I had won the lottery. At least what I imagined that would feel like.
An unexpected windfall of riches and resources suddenly deposited on my side of the ledger.

Work friends threw a farewell party for me and quite the party it was! The venue was stunning. The food was exceptional. The memories flowed in animated conversations.

We were major shareholders celebrating a long- term investment of time, effort and relationship that had gone well.

I had given leadership to a bunch of ordinary radicals and visionary misfits who like me were determined to make a difference in this world in the housing and healthcare sector.

While It was about me and our time together, in so many ways it wasn’t.

Most of us had worked side by side for many years. Others were newer to the scene. Through it all, we enjoyed fights, jealousies, pettiness, arguments, faith, tears and tragedy, laughter and joy. You know, – all that confounding pile of human-ness that comprises genuine community.

Some of us watched each other’s kids grow up. At times, we vexed each other beyond words, then managed to pull it from the brink, forgive, reconcile, hug it out, and refocus.

In the end, it was a celebration of compound interest in invested lives.

Here’s the Math Part 

As a kid, I disliked math. It didn’t help that I never had a good math teacher.
Besides, my active juvenile brain was saying “way too boring!”

The irony is that now I work with math every day. I appreciate the unyielding inerrancy of good math.

Whether you’re arguing a parking ticket, buying truckloads of concrete, or convincing a board of directors these budget numbers really work, you’ve got have the math right or you’re dead in the water.

Math done right doesn’t lie!

One of my favorite math formulas is the one for exponential growth:

 

Here’s the Standard Compound Interest Formula

“A” is the ending amount, “P” is the beginning amount (or “principal”), “r” is the interest rate (expressed as a decimal), “n” is the number of times compounded in a year, and “t” is the total number of years.

It’s the formula for the compound interest that savvy investors have employed for centuries. Some have called it the eighth wonder of the world.

Let me explain it this way:

There’s a picturesque pond with a small patch of lily pads. The little lily patch doubles every day.

 

If it takes forty-eight days to cover the whole pond, how many days to cover half of the pond?

Our linear way of thinking screams twenty-four. Wrong!
The answer is forty-seven days.
Compound interest is difficult to grasp because it is difficult to think exponentially. In other words, we think by 1 + 1 + 1 = 3.

The compound interest principal uses exponential thinking.   Just like the lily pad, it takes forty-seven days to cover half of the pond and BAM!

Only one more day to accomplish what was done in the previous forty-seven.

What if we applied the same mathematical law to the social currency of our relationships? 

Here’s the Relationship Part

In her 2014 book “The Village Effect” psychologist Susan Pinker provides compelling evidence of our need to invest in face to face human relationships.

From the flap: “As humans, we’re hardwired to connect with others. Direct contact matters: tight bonds of friendship and love heal us, help children learn, extend our lives and make us happy. Not just any social networks will do: we need real in-the-flesh encounters that tie human families, groups of friends, and communities together.

In one of the lengthiest longitudinal studies ever, Harvard researchers undertook a multi-generational 75-year study. The Grant and Glueck study tracked the physical and emotional well-being of two socio-economic groups: 456 poor men growing up in Boston from 1939 to 2014 (the Grant Study), and 268 male graduates from Harvard’s classes of 1939-1944 (the Glueck study). You can read all about the 1 Secret To Leading A fulfilling Life.

Bottom line?

You guessed it.

The clear message that we get from this 75-year study is this:

Good relationships matter, Good relationships keep us happier and healthier. Being a world-beater in a chosen field, or having tons of money just plain doesn’t matter in the long run.

Begs the question: Can a precise law of math be applied to the social currency of relationships?

From lived experience, I’d say a resounding “yes”!

Only one minor caveat. Our flawed human nature messes the variables somewhat, but in general, the principle still works fine.

Author James Clear in his book “Atomic Habits” says

Time will multiply and compound whatever you feed it.” 

That goes for regular deposits in our portfolio of relational investments.

Something to Think About. 

What if we asked investment type questions around our relationships?

What is my investment timeline? Am I prepared to be patient?
What is my tolerance for risk here?
Does this investment pay dividends? Am I happy with the results?
Can I ride out a reversal?
Am I comfortable with the costs associated? (time, effort, emotional energy)
What is my strategy for allocation? One-time invest? Regular deposits? Both?
Do I double down, reinvest, buy and hold, or cash out?

Something to Do

Check your list.
See who matters
Do the math
Invest regularly and often

The windfall of rich benefits will astound you!

PS. A deep heartfelt thank-you to all of you who made my farewell bash such a memorable time. I’ll cherish your kindness forever. 

As usual, I’m thrilled if you check in with me.
Call, text, email, smoke signals.
Here to help.

Until next time
Lorne