People often ask me about flow triggers. What puts me in flow is different from what puts you in flow. Often, for me, it is music.
Yesterday, as I was writing installation documentation while sitting in a cubicle in a Corporate America environment (my definition of Hell--a flow-killer), I turned on Pandora. I have an Al Jareau Station set up. The first song was "Mornin'"...my ALL-TIME FAVORITE Al Jareau song.
My favorite line in the song is "...and higher still, beyond the blue until, I know I can, like any man, reach out my hand and touch the face of God..." That just pushes me forward into a new place. Everything around me drops away, and I'm able to focus...ah, FLOW!
This morning, I felt utterly and completely overwhelmed with things I've committed to do, things I want to do, things I should do, and things I have to do. Ideally, these would all be the same things, but this morning, there was conflict and divergence.
The outer world (that is, not within my sphere of influence) feels impossibly volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous (VUCA). This has had a profound impact on my inner world. As a result, I have felt the need to load up and over commit in an effort to feel some semblance of control.
The good news is that I've learned to recognize (most of the time) when I'm feeling bad or uncomfortable. This situational awareness enables me to take action to remedy the situation. First and foremost, for me, this means I need to attend to physical needs. I went to my workout class at Higher Purpose Fitness. Not only did this energize me physically, but this practice also has a social component. Everyone knows one another. We encourage each other, instilling a "you got this" attitude that lasts all day. Feeling right physically and emotionally facilitates mental capacity.
My routine (which I love), my goals, and the habits I've cultivated enable me to maximize my flow states. When I remain true to this path, magical, serendipitous events insert themselves into my daily journey. After my workout, I went to Starbucks. A friend, whom I haven't seen in ages, but whom I keep meaning to call, came into Starbucks this morning. We set a meeting. He also provided me with a resource I have been looking for. Following that encounter, I heard the siren on a fire truck as it drove by (I always take this as a sign I'm on a right path).
The thing is, I'm really good at this on a daily basis. Planning out six months in advance (which is what I have to do for conferences, speaking engagements, etc.) is not as simple. The next step in this process is to look, again, at the commitment list and ask myself, "Is this in keeping with my goals and my sense of well-being?" That is what I need to do today. This is the definition of flow-based decision making.
One of the questions that came out of my presentation on Flow-based Leadership to the Atlanta Chapter of the Society for Technical Communication was about training. I was asked about the 70-20-10 framework of training, which many corporations have adopted. The framework breaks down training 10% Formal Training/Education, 20% Social Training (with a coach or mentor), and 70% Experiential/Experience. Corporate America has used this as an excuse to NOT train people, assuming that people can learn on their own. Hence, spending millions on systems, but not paying for the training. People then jerry-rig the systems to get their jobs done. As a result, data is compromised and reports are skewed, which, ultimately, impacts decision making.
The fire service uses this model, too. However, the 70% is actually experiential training. Captain Todd Freeman, Cobb County FD, was sitting in on my presentation. I asked him what he and his crew had been doing all day. He reported that they were were in training doing something he had been doing on the job for 27 years--learning how to vent. They were on top of a building with chain saws cutting holes in the roof--over and over. They destroyed dozens of pieces of plywood over the course of the day. They were getting better and better at this task, so that when the time came to actually vent a roof in a fire, they would be able to execute safely, effectively, and efficiently.
Experiential training should be deliberate, targeted, and planned. It involves focus and guidance by an expert instructor. In the Corporate world, we would probably refer to it as a lab, where we get instruction and a specific set of monitored and measured tasks to perform. What happens now is that the bean counters assume this type of training is part of the 10%. Providing a system or tool with no training and telling people to go figure it out is NOT the same thing as experiential training.
When I arrived at the event location, which was in one of Cobb County, Marietta, GA's, municipal buildings, I saw a fire station! Station 21. I got there early, so, I knocked on the fire station door and met the crew. I invited them to the presentation. Captain Todd Freeman took me up on my invitation and sat in. His input was invaluable, both during and after the presentation.
Here's the thing. I use the Georgia Smoke Diver (GSD) program as a model for flow-based leadership. But I'm so excited about what they have to offer in terms of a leadership model, I tend to move toward sounding like a sales pitch for the fire service--and more particularly for GSD. This is not my intent.
After my presentation, Todd asked me, "Do you have anything negative to say about the fire service?" I immediately remembered one of my professors asking something similar. She told me I had to point out the bad with the good. Indeed, the fire service is not a perfect model. It has similar issues as corporate America (e.g., generational issues, cultural issues, volatile markets, uncertain futures, etc.)--and they are intensified, because the men and women of the fire service are like family. They LIVE together when they work.
This is the very reason, those of us not in the fire service should pay attention. The fire service has figured out how to live and work together effectively, compassionately, and productively.
Once again, I need to reframe the message to be clearer, more focused, more balanced. It's all about getting better at getting the message out, while continuing to honor the men and women in the fire service, who have shown me that a better world is possible.
On January 1, I sat down, as I do every six months (on the first day of the year and on my birthday, July 1) and worked through my process I call "Strategic Planning for Your Life." I have been teaching this process to my coaching clients and mentees for 27 years. Many have told me that I need to build an app to support the process. I have resisted for a variety of reasons, but it occurred to me, as I worked through the process again, that, indeed, the process does lend itself to app-dom.
This past week I met with a friend of mine who does app development about the possibilities. He asked me if I was familiar with "Designing Your Life" by a couple of Stanford professors. I wasn't. So, yesterday, since I was iced-in in Atlanta, I watched a few of their videos. Their process is almost identical to mine! And, I have been giving this away for all these years! Dang! I went to bed early last night feeling defeated.
I'm still wondering if I should build an app. To those of you who have been through my workshops: Do you think an app would be useful? Do I dare try to compete with a couple of Stanford professors, who have only been doing this for seven years?
I hope that all your dreams and schemes come true in 2017!
Seth Godin's UDEMY class for freelancers has a series of exercises that are very thought provoking. The first is to answer the question, "What do you want to do?" This is not referring to a job title, but asks the student to consider the activities you want to fill your time.
I've thought about this for about a week now. I've paid attention to what I find myself doing at various times of the day. Given my passion for maximizing my flow experiences, I have determined that my favorite activities consist of
Researching and writing
Connecting the dots (Analyzing processes)
Promoting and connecting people
Coaching people to new ways of thinking
Photography (capturing moments)
Keeping myself strong and healthy
My favorite subjects to research, analyze, and write are seemingly unrelated on the surface, but at a meta-level are integrally connected. My research in the fire service--especially with the Georgia Smoke Diver program--has presented me with a model of transformational leadership that I believe is transferrable to many other organizations.
Most of my consulting work is in Information Technology (IT). I love the promise of improved well-being that technology brings. However, over the last 35 years I have witnessed the development of systems that ignore the end user and fail to deliver promised productivity and efficiency. Over and over, I run into people who are frustrated with their jobs because of technology (including me, when I have to deal with a terribly designed system). No one should go home at the end of the day feeling frustrated that he or she couldn't get the job done because the technology got in the way. It seems to me that, if the IT world was as outward focused as the fire service is, users of technology would be much happier in their jobs.
More to come...the next question is "Who do you want to change, and how do you want to change them?"
I've always been pretty good about reinventing myself. In fact, I have a pretty awesome process for doing that called "Strategic Planning For Your Life". Recently, however, I have felt pretty stuck. I have decided to shake things up a bit.
Along came Seth Godin, an extraordinary author for whom I have an enormous amount of respect. He is offering an amazing online course for freelancers through Udemy (although, I think his lectures and exercises apply to anyone). The price was right, so I signed up.
The course consists of 81 very short (2-3 minutes) lectures and a series of very introspective exercises, which he insists must be done "publicly". In other words, I have to knock down the walls of my comfort zone. I didn't think this would be hard. However, after watching the first 4 lectures and getting to the exercises, I froze! I'm not sure what that's about, but I will be pushing through this block over the next couple of weeks.
Pink describes an study at West Point by a group of scholars from the UPENN, West Point, and the University of Michigan. They wanted to know why the attrition rate in the West Point “Beast Barracks” (Cadet Basic Training) was so high. What they found was: “The best predictor of success, the researchers found, was the prospective cadets’ ratings on a noncognitive, non-physical trait known as ‘grit’—defined as ‘perseverance and passion for long-term goals’.”
In other words, success is not dependent on how smart we are or how physically fit or able we are. What we believe shapes what we achieve. People who have long-term goals and who work toward those goals will work on tasks that support or contribute to reaching those long-term goals. They do these tasks even when they don't feel like it and even when those tasks are mundane. They do this because they intuitively understand that mastery comes from repetition and commitment.
There are only 24 hours in the day, but it is the same 24 hours that Bill Gates, Warren Buffet and Opra Wiinfrey have. How will you spend those 24 hours? Are you passionately working toward your long-term goals? What is your "grit quotient"?
It's that time of year again. A New Year has begun. Everything feels fresh and full of possibility.
This morning I got an email from a good friend, Kit Brown-Hoekstra, asking about exercises for strategic planning. I thought I'd share my response to her in hopes that it helps others.
Whether you are working with yourself, an individual, or a group, begin with how you or they want to be perceived (in the marketplace, by others, by customers, etc.). Begin with an exercise that gets them thinking about overhearing someone talking about them in public. If you are doing this for yourself, imagine your own funeral/wake. What do you or they want people to say about you or them.
Everything else falls out of that desired perception. What do needs to be done to position yourself or themselves so that what is desired is the actual perception.
Next, what do you or they want to accomplish long term (10+ years out for organizations, lifetime for individuals) and what needs to happen in the interim to make that a reality.
Once this structure is in place, you or they can think tactically. Back into the envisioned accomplishments and build projects that support the strategies. The tactics then fall out of the strategies.
If this linear approach doesn't work for you. Draw a picture while asking the same questions.