The Grass is Always Greener…

"Our thoughts create our realitywhere we put our focus is the direction we tend to go." —Peter McWilliams

A few years ago, I needed some good advice. At the moment, I probably didn't know it. I was getting a haircut from a close friend of mine, Rodger, who has always been an important mentor to me. Rodger has opened four very successful salons in Denver and has always focused his business on providing a high-end experience for all of his customers, who in return, are loyal fans for life. However, his business savvy isn't the only thing that impresses me about him. While he is a great leader to his team and rarely has morale issues at work, what makes Rodger so special is his balance. In addition to being a successful businessman, he's a dedicated husband and father and even though he's quite successful financially, he believes in hard labor and does many of the day-to-day tasks himself that are required to maintain and improve his home. He is also as wise as anyone I've ever met.

On this particular Saturday morning, I was sharing with Rodger that my wife and I were not content in our new home. We were frustrated. We moved for the 4th time in 5 years but were never able to find the perfect place for our family, and our new house was no exception. One house wasn't modern enough; one house wasn't convenient enough to the things we like; one house wasn't close enough to the kids' activities. Rodger quietly listened and when I was done spilling out my heart, he said,

"You know, Chris, the grass is always greener..."  He paused for a moment and then finished, "...where you water it."

I looked up in the mirror. By now, he had stopped cutting my hair, put his hand on my shoulder, and finished dispensing his advice, "Think of what you could do in your life if you applied the energy you are using to find something better on what you can control and how you can improve." This was a game changer for me personally and professionally.

How many times have you ever thought, "If I were working on that project, would I finally get noticed for my talent?" Here's another common one, "If only we had the necessary resources, we could make a huge difference in the company." Where else is the grass greener in our corporate lives? I'm sure some of us have said, "If I were the manager of this team, I would ensure that guy was being held accountable and our results would be better than they are today."

Do you notice how these statements are related to Rodger's advice? By applying your energy to conditions that are out of your control or may never happen, you expend the energy you need to dig in and focus on improvement. Most importantly, you lose the opportunity to enjoy the many assets & gifts that are right under your nose and could be leveraged to make a huge difference in other people's lives and careers.

Where will you water the grass this week? Will you work on building a relationship with a key stakeholder that hasn't been happy with your performance? Will you ask a teammate for help on an important task that you haven't been able to complete? Will you ask a teammate if (s)he needs help? Will you lead with your actions, even if your job description doesn't call for you to be a manager right now? Will you focus on things you CAN control and will that focus lead to greener pastures?

Our family has lived in our home now for our 3rd year based on Rodger's advice. It's not our dream home; we live on a semi-busy street and; some of the 80's architecture is as bad as it gets. However, we get to walk everywhere from restaurants to grocery shopping, and our kids love the familiarity of the neighborhood. Most importantly, our house is full of love and we're using the energy that we would have focused on finding something else to dig in, enjoy life and our family, and to make this home the best it can be.

 

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Chris Laping is Co-Founder & CEO of People Before Things, LLC, a boutique consultancy that helps executive and project leaders prepare people for technology change. He has also written a bestselling book, People Before Things: Change Isn’t an End-User Problem, which explores the role leaders play to pave success in change and transformation. To join the conversation, follow @CIOChris and @pplb4things on Twitter.

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All By Myself

"Kudos become ladder rungs, and we begin to elevate ourselves. We shed our smallness, discard the Clark Kent glasses, and don a Superman swagger. We forget. We forget who brought us here." —Max Lucado

Let me begin this blog by sharing a quick excerpt from a book I'm enjoying by Max Lucado called, Outlive Your Life.

"When my nephew Lawson was three years old, he asked me to play some basketball. A towheaded spark plug of a boy, he delights in anything round and bouncy. When he spotted the basketball and goal in my driveway, he couldn't resist.

The ball, however, was as big as his midsection. The basket was three times his height. His best heaves fell way short. So I set out to help him. I lowered the goal from ten feet to eight feet. I led him closer to the target. I showed him how to "granny toss" the ball. Nothing helped. The ball never threatened the net. So I gave him a lift. With one hand on his back and my other beneath his little bottom, I lifted him higher and higher until he was eye level with the rim.

"Make a basket, Lawson!" I urged. And he did. He rolled the ball over the iron hoop, and down it dropped. Swoosh! And how did little Lawson respond? Still cradled in my hands, he punched both fists into the air and declared, "All by myself! All by myself!"

When I read those few paragraphs, I literally chuckled out loud. Anyone who has ever been a parent, mentor, proud Aunt/Uncle, or babysitter has experienced such a moment. And the truth is, anyone who has ever stepped foot in a professional setting has, too!

Maybe you've said the same thing to yourself. Maybe you've heard someone at work say it. Worse yet, maybe you've even heard your boss declare such a thought in a meeting, even if (s)he used slightly different words. The main difference in a work setting (beside the fact that adults are saying it) is it can be accompanied with resentment, self-pity, or arrogance. Here's the punch line though, and you know exactly what I'm going to saymost of the time, it isn't true! Let me say it againmost of the time, it isn't true!

Here's the truthwe need each other, and we're better for being here with each other in life and work. Can you imagine how comforting it would be if we all believed our teammates and leaders actually had our backs more than we think? I believe in most cases, if we did some serious investigative reporting, we would be utterly surprised by the truththey do!

Our accomplishments mostly come with the support and efforts of others, but we don't always notice it.

That's simply because we’re humanunfinished and imperfect, and we are capable of architecting a drama which makes us the underdog ... or we imagine a burning building, where we are the hero who saves the day. The fact is, we aren't alone, and we certainly aren't always required to be a hero.

For all of us, this simple truth can set us free. There is nothing more powerful than not having to prove yourself. If it applies to you, stop believing your success is something you did, "All by myself!" In fact, I challenge you today to thank someone at work for having your back. And by the way, because they’re such a great teammate, they’ll probably return the credit you were looking to give.

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Chris Laping is Co-Founder & CEO of People Before Things, LLC, a boutique consultancy that helps executive and project leaders prepare people for technology change. He has also written a bestselling book, People Before Things: Change Isn’t an End-User Problem, which explores the role leaders play to pave success in change and transformation. To join the conversation, follow @CIOChris and @pplb4things on Twitter.

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Touchy, Feely Trust Fall Kind of Stuff (well, not really)

“You give loyalty, you’ll get it back. You give love, you’ll get it back.” —Tommy Lasorda

We got a call from our son’s school the other day. It wasn’t because he was winning the Student of the Year award. No, it was one of those dreaded conversations where you hear that your child did something so absurdly ridiculous you go right to, “What in the world was he thinking?!?!” My son is 14 — at that age, I wasn’t exactly joining the Peace Corps or helping Ms. Guthrie get her cat out of the tree. So, I knew I should cut him some slack.

When he got home, we sat him down and calmly asked, “Will you help us understand why you thought it was a good idea to…”
His answer really took us back. I think even the most well-balanced parents trained in Love and Logic would have gone running and screaming from our house. He looked me straight in the face and said, “Because the school’s rules didn’t say I couldn’t.” Really? Why couldn’t he have applied that logic to an action like using his allowance to buy teachers appreciation gifts? I’m pretty sure school rules don’t say anything about not doing that!

This situation got me wondering: is it this line of reasoning that sometimes causes leadership to go wrong? Have you ever heard a leader justify a decision he made with the business equivalent of, “Because the rules didn’t say I couldn’t?” How did it impact the way you felt about the company you worked for? Here’s the deal: every company I’ve ever worked for or been exposed to wants their customers to love them.

And I’ve learned in my executive career that your customers will never love you if your team members don’t love you first.

Admittedly, love is a strong word. In the business world, it’s only earned by invested and involved leaders who treat their team well—especially when something big changes in the workplace. Some leaders think that’s soft and squishy. They proclaim they “don’t have time” to “bring people along” because they need to focus on the “real work.” Maybe that’s the reason Gallup reports almost 70% of the US workforce is not engaged/actively disengaged; maybe that’s the reason 70% of all change initiatives fail. To me, it sounds like soft and squishy might actually be hard and tangible.

But then again, I don’t believe change and innovation is an end-user or team member problem; it’s a leadership opportunity.

While traditional change tactics like communications and training place the burden squarely on the shoulders of the people receiving a big change, (I believe) there are conditions that leaders solely own and influence ... and determine whether success is even possible at an execution level.

Conditions like alignment, where executives are absolutely clear on WHY they are pushing a big change—and communicate that WHY every day to team members. Yes, daily! Conditions like capacity, and ensuring people have the time of day to absorb the new “Thing.” These are just a couple of the head-slapping, intuitive conditions that influence success. Seems obvious, but leaders often ignore them.

It’s been said, “Absence makes the heart grow fonder,” but in the case of leadership it absolutely does not work that way.

Team members need their leaders available and willing to provide crystal clear clarity to avoid organizational dysfunction and confusion. Speaking of clarity, seems like my son might need more of it. And one thing I need him to know: even a good excuse will never justify bad behavior. Sometimes you do things because you just know it’s right. Some call that soft and squishy. I call that hard and real.

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Chris Laping is Co-Founder & CEO of People Before Things, LLC, a boutique consultancy that helps executive and project leaders prepare people for technology change. He has also written a bestselling book, People Before Things: Change Isn’t an End-User Problem, which explores the role leaders play to pave success in change and transformation. To join the conversation, follow @CIOChris and @pplb4things on Twitter.

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