In 100 Words: Boundary

We get too bogged down by our self-imposed boundaries.

Boss won’t allow.

That is not our process.

I’ve never been told!

Not my job.

They need to do it!

And it goes on. But what if we cross that boundary and get into the realm of:

What can I do?

Who can I influence?

How can we make it better?

How can I elicit their commitment for this?

It’s a different conversation that requires great deal of emotional labor. As Seth Godin says in Poke the Box, boundaries are in our heads, not anywhere else.


Related Posts at QAspire.com

The Spark of Initiative

There are people who coast along, go with the flow and do as directed. And then, there are those who strive to add value, raise the bar and make a difference.

If you belong to the latter, Seth Godin has some simple (yet profound) guidance for you. He wrote about three ways to add value – by doing things, by taking decisions and by initiating. Our education system trains us to do things efficiently. Our experience may lead us to a point where we can decide effectively what’s best for ourselves, our team, project and organization.

But we need to learn the art of initiating things ourselves; by having new ideas, starting small experiments, taking tiny risks, caring enough, exerting emotional labor, doing the right thing when no one is watching, learning along the way, adapting our approaches and then hopefully, see our ideas come to life.

“There are two mistakes one can make along the road to truth.

Not going all the way, and not starting.”

– Siddhartha Gautama

In his book “Poke the Box” Seth Godin wrote,

“The world is changing too fast. Without the spark of initiative, you have no choice but to simply react to the world. Without the ability to instigate and experiment, you are stuck, adrift, waiting to be shoved.”

In a future that is increasingly getting automated, it is this spark of initiative that is and would remain our real competitive advantage.

In 100 Words: Agility and Embracing Uncertainty

We are comfortable with what is predictable. This impacts our choices because we want to maximize the chances of success.

Then, once in a while, we are thrown into situations where we have no control. It compels us to carve a way out and create a map as we go. We learn the most here.

The key to success in VUCA world is to embrace the uncertain without waiting to be thrown into it. That which is predictable merely keeps us in the game but when we embrace (and succeed at) the new and the uncertain, we elevate our performance.

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Also Read: Parables in 100 Words

Management Improvement Carnival: 2012 Edition

This is the third consecutive year when I am hosting the Annual Management Improvement Carnival organized by John Hunter. Hosting this carnival is an opportunity for me to thank a few generous folks who extended significant learning and influenced me through their writing.

This year, I review three blogs that I have loved reading.

Seth Godin’s Blog

If there is one person on blogosphere who has influenced me the most (through his words and deeds), that person is Seth Godin. I reviewed Seth’s blog last year as well apart from doing “one-question interview and review” for his books “Linchpin” and “Poke the Box”. This time around, I will point you to 5 best posts and snippets written by Seth in 2012:

  1. Who Cares?: Caring, it turns out, is a competitive advantage, and one that takes effort, not money.”
  2. Can I see your body of work?: “Are you leaving behind an easily found trail of accomplishment? Few people are interested in your resume any more. Plenty are interested in what you’ve done.”
  3. Perfect and Impossible: “If you are in love with the perfect, prepare to see it swept away. If you are able to dream of the impossible, it just might happen.”
  4. If your happiness is based on always getting a little more than you’ve got…: “An alternative is to be happy wherever you are, with whatever you’ve got, but always hungry for the thrill of creating art, of being missed if you’re gone and most of all, doing important work.”
  5. Don’t expect applause: “If your work is filled with the hope and longing for applause, it’s no longer your work–the dependence on approval has corrupted it, turned it into a process where you are striving for ever more approval.”

Jamie Flinchbaugh

Jamie Flinchbaugh writes on lean, transformational leadership and entrepreneurial excellence. His blog offers very useful perspectives and insights on leading an effective enterprise. Here are 3 posts and snippets that I enjoyed reading so far, and you will too:

  1. Standard work is not a replacement for skill and knowledge: Standard work is not a replacement for skill and knowledge, it’s purpose to enable skill and knowledge to be applied consistently and effectively. Most work cannot be done by robots; it is done by people. And so standard work must be designed for our needs, as an aid, not a crutch nor a hindrance.”
  2. 4 myths about the principle of “Respect for People”: “Conflict leads to resolution. Conflict leads to new understanding. Conflict, when managed properly, brings people together.”
  3. The failure of “Don’t bring me problems, bring me solutions!”: “I believe one of the utmost hallmarks of a lean organization is that someone can talk very openly about the problems which they have no idea how to solve yet.”

Sharlyn Lauby’s HR Bartender

Sharlyn Lauby runs a very popular HR blog and loves to call herself “HR Bartender”. However, her blog focuses on topics that relate to the workplace, not just human resources. 3 posts and snippets from HR Bartender that I enjoyed reading the most are:

  1. Your Company’s Next Innovation Will Be the Result of Empathy: “Then comes the hard part. It’s tough to take the conversation and turn it into practice. We can talk about empathy but how many of us can really demonstrate it?”
  2. Projects Are the New Job Interview: The things we take on, the projects we agree to be a part of, define us. Because people are watching. They are paying attention to what we do. We may or may not even know it. And guess what? Maybe we’re being “interviewed” all along and don’t even realize it.”
  3. 5 Qualities of Professional People: “Part of gaining respect is being able to say “I don’t know.” Be the best you can at what you do and don’t be afraid to admit when you don’t know something.”

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Related Posts:

  1. People Focus – 2010 Management Improvement Carnival
  2. Annual Management Improvement Carnival: Edition 1 (2011)
  3. Annual Management Improvement Carnival: Edition 2 (2011)

Stay Tuned: Subscribe via RSS, Connect via Facebook or Follow us on Twitter. You can also subscribe to updates via email using the section at the bottom of the page. Looking forward to the conversations!

On Creativity: SRK and Seth Godin!

Two personalities from two diverse nations; One is an Indian mega-star Shahrukh Khan (SRK) and the other is a relentless instigator (and my hero) Seth Godin. Both live a creative life and express themselves fully through their work. Both have a significant impact on large number of people. Recently, both expressed their views on creativity.

At his recent talk as Chubb Fellow at Yale University, SRK shared his view on creativity and said,

Creativity is your gift to the world. It was never meant to be barter for anything, not even appreciation. You have to believe, that you create only because this is the biggest gift you have to give to your world. Maybe that’s why we even say God is a creator. It’s not about the cars or houses…it never was… those are peripherals. They never come about because of your talent or your creative outpourings… they come out of a business that people around you do. Those people are in the business of barter — not you. Yours is the business of giving and learning. Your work of art may never be complete in your lifetime. Your fulfillment will always lie in your creative expression not in its products.

In his usual provocative style, Seth Godin urges us not to expect applause. He says,

But when you expect applause, when you do your work in order (and because of) applause, you have sold yourself short. That’s because your work is depending on something out of your control. You have given away part of your art. If your work is filled with the hope and longing for applause, it’s no longer your work–the dependence on approval has corrupted it, turned it into a process where you are striving for ever more approval.

These insights led me to think and following lessons emerged:

  1. Don’t barter your originality and expression with external drivers, and rewards. When recognitions or rewards happen, cherish them. Treat them as by-products. But don’t let that get into your head, because once it does, logic rules. And when logic is a dominant force over emotion, creativity quickly eludes us.
  2. The pre-requisite of being creative is to first be yourself. If we are not true to our authentic selves, if we are not aware about our inherent interests, it is hard to be creative.
  3. Being true to your self means that you might need to break some rules, re-invent some and create a few. Non-conformance is good for creative diversity.

Also read: 5 Insights on Creativity from Osho

Gratitude 2011

Gratefulness fills me whenever a year ends. Each year brings along new hopes, some challenges, many opportunities. When the year ends, we look back and ruminate on how we did to seize those opportunities, to face those challenges and what we learned out of it all.

One of the things I am so grateful about is this blog, and everything it brings along – clarity in thinking, expansion of my world view, some fantastic (and often life changing) lessons and many encouraging friends. I meet these friends through the words they write – through their passion for sharing ideas and make a difference. Here is a partial list of such friends and mentors on blogosphere that I am so thankful for.

  1. Wally Bock and Michael Wade are two individuals that I respect a lot. They run very high quality blogs that are updated almost everyday. I feel honored whenever they feature my posts on their blogs. I am grateful for knowing such wonderful people.
  2. Kurt Harden runs Cultural Offering Blog and is a source of some great lessons on life and leadership. He appreciates my work as much as I appreciate his. I cannot thank him enough for his support and encouragement.
  3. Nicholas Bate is a genius. He is one of my virtual mentors who is also super-creative. He doodles, compiles lists and writes great books. His generosity in sharing his best work with me never fails to amaze me. I am so glad I know him. (Read his latest series: Strategies for Success)
  4. Utpal Vaishnav is a blogger and a cool friend. He reviews my work, validates my thoughts and adds value through his own experience. His blog is a treasure trove of useful insights on project management and self help. His punch line? “No Actions. No Results. Everything else is a commentary.
  5. Rajesh Setty is my guide, mentor and a friend who leads by example. He just does not show the way, but walks the way. He helped me write my first book and encouraged me through a number of conversations thereafter. He is super-generous, thoughtful and inspiring. I am grateful for our connection.
  6. I am thankful to Lisa Haneberg, Becky Robinson and Mary Jo Asmus for their support and encouragement to my work. At various points in 2011, they connected via Twitter, emails and blog to extend help, inspiration and opportunities.
  7. John Hunter is a passionate improvement expert who shares profound insight and research on his blog “Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog”. He also features great thinkers on quality, leadership and lean related topics via his Management Improvement Carnivals.
  8. I am grateful to have known Dan McCarthy and learned a great deal about leadership and people management via his blog “Great Leadership”. Dan is also known as a host of Carnival of Leadership Development.
  9. Seth Godin is my hero. He wrote a profound book “Linchpin” (reviewed here). This year, he wrote “Poke the Box” and released several other master pieces at The Domino Project. I reviewed Poke the Box this year (with a one question interview with Seth Godin). I am cannot end my “thank you” list without a mention of this generous human being who is on a mission to instigate people to do great work and make a difference.

A blog exists because people read it. I wrote last year, “This blog is a skeleton, a tool. Whatever I write here is flesh and blood. But readers, i.e. YOU are the soul.“ So, thank you for reading and supporting QAspire Blog. I have enjoyed all the interactions with you via my posts, comments and interactions through Twitter and QAspire Facebook page.

Merry Christmas!

Annual Management Improvement Carnival: Edition 1

It is always a great privilege to participate in Annual Management Improvement Carnival organized by John Hunter. I am thrilled to play the host at QAspire and I will be featuring my “four favorite” blogs in two editions. From time to time, these blogs educate me, stir up my thinking, change/challenge me and help me grow.

In this first edition, lets look at the first two blogs that I *love* reading.

Seth Godin’s Blog

Seth Godin needs no introduction – he is the most amazing thinker, doer, initiator, instigator and change agent. He inspires me (and the world) through his words and deeds. Finding a few posts that I really liked over last few years is just like showing a small tip of a huge iceberg, but I will still attempt! Here are the ones that really touched me:

  1. Self directed effort is the best kind: “The thing I care the most about: what do you do when no one is looking, what do you make when it’s not an immediate part of your job… how many push ups do you do, just because you can?
  2. You matter: “When you touch the people in your life through your actions (and your words), you matter.”
  3. The paradox of expectations:it’s worth considering no expectations. Intense effort followed by an acceptance of what you get in return. It doesn’t make good TV, but it’s a discipline that can turn you into a professional.

Bonus Resources:

  1. Blogger J. D. Meier compiled one of the best posts titled “Lessons Learned From Seth Godin”. Some of the best insights, blog posts and ebooks from Seth Godin, all at one place.
  2. Fellow friend Ivana Sendecka compiled “15 Must Watch Videos Collection of Seth Godin’s Wisdom”. A wonderful mash-up of Seth Godin’s best videos.
  3. Reviews of Seth Godin’s books “Poke the Box” and “Linchpin” at QAspire (containing one question interview with Seth).

Work Matter (Bob Sutton’s Blog)

Robert Sutton is Professor of Management Science and Engineering at Stanford University. I have been a regular reader of Bob’s blog Work Matters where he writes about innovation, learning and leadership. His new book is Good Boss, Bad Boss: How to Be the Best–and Learn from the Worst. Some of his best posts I like includes:

  1. New Research: We Are More Creative When We Help Others Than Ourselves:There is an interesting set of findings from psychological experiments that suggest we see others’ flaws and strengths more clearly than our own (I wrote about this in Good Boss, Bad Boss) and that, on average, human-beings make more rational decisions when make them for others rather than themselves.
  2. 17 Things I Believe: Updated and Expanded:Strive for simplicity and competence, but embrace the confusion and messiness along the way.
  3. 11 Signs You’re A Bad Boss: From AMEX OPEN Forum: One of them, “Implementation is for the little people. Your job is to develop and talk about big ideas, not to waste time thinking about all the little steps required to make them happen.”

Bonus Resources:

Seth Godin on Project Leadership

We live in a time when our career is not just a sum total of years we spent in the industry. Our career is about what projects we initiated/handled/led and what difference did the project deliver. Project is a new eco-system, a new playground where we play and thrive as professionals to deliver our best.

Since everything we do is a project, I thought of seeking some guidance from Seth Godin (my hero) via his blog posts on how to thrive and lead in a project-oriented world:

If you choose to manage a project, it’s pretty safe. As the manager, you report. You report on what’s happening, you chronicle the results, you are the middleman.

If you choose to run a project, on the other hand, you’re on the hook. It’s an active engagement, bending the status quo to your will, ensuring that you ship.

Via post: “The difference between running and managing a project”

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Here’s another gem:

Instead of seeking excuses, the successful project is filled with people who are obsessed with avoiding excuses. If you relentlessly work to avoid opportunities to use your ability to blame, you may never actually need to blame anyone. If you’re not pulled over by the cop, no need to blame the speedometer, right?

Via post: Looking for the right excuse

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Finally,

You don’t work on an assembly line any more. You work in project world, and more projects mean more chances to screw up, to learn, to make a reputation and to have more impact.

When it’s you against the boss, the goal is to do less work.

When it’s you against the project, the goal is to do more work.

– Via post: When is it due?

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So here are some critical questions:

  1. What projects you initiated in past few months (not because someone asked for, but because you believed in them)?
  2. Are you simply managing a project, or leading one?
  3. What difference are you delivering via your project(s)?

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Related Posts at QAspire

Projects as Opportunities to Practice Leadership

Thoughts on Project Leadership and Choices

Poke The Box: A Review and One Question to Seth Godin

Last year, Seth Godin showed us a way to become a Linchpin. This year, he urges us to “Poke the Box” – to act, to start, to initiate, to experiment, to try (and fail and learn from it) and most importantly to finish and deliver. Poking the box is about taking initiatives, not just waiting for someone to delegate them to us.

Seth has packed a lot of punch into this book, so much that the passion and force in his writing almost instigates us to start/act.

With Poke the Box, Seth is also challenging the traditional methods of content distribution adopted by the publishing industry. He started “The Domino Project” – his new publishing venture with Amazon that is aimed at changing the the way books are built, sold and spread. He leads by example!

Here are some gems from the book

“The job isn’t to catch up to the status quo; The job is to invent the status quo.”

“The world is changing too fast. Without the spark of initiative, you have no choice but to simply react to the world. Without the ability to instigate and experiment, you are stuck, adrift, waiting to be shoved.”

“Excellence isn’t about working extra hard to do what you’re told. It’s about taking the initiative to do work you decide is worth doing. It’s a personal, urgent, this-is-my-call/this-is-my-calling way to do your job.”

One question to Seth Godin

After reading this book, I thought about reasons why people stay away from taking initiative in organizations and what could leaders do about it. This led to me to ask one question to Seth Godin:

Tanmay: The readers of my blog are people who are leaders, aspiring leaders and the ones who are willing to make a difference. How can a leader prepare others so that more people from their circle of influence initiate meaningful things and poke the box?

Seth Godin: Simple, but scary: don’t punish failure, reward it. Reward smart initiative, even when it doesn’t work.

Thanks Seth, for nudging us (or rather pushing us) to initiate.

Over to you

I think anyone who is willing to make a difference by doing meaningful work should read this book. You can read Q & A with Seth Godin at the Amazon page and learn more about The Domino Project.

So, what are you doing to poke the box? What are you initiating? Great questions for the mid week.

Friday High-Five: Posts I Loved Reading Last Week

Friday is a great day to share links to some of the best thinking out there. I am fortunate to a part of a wonderful leadership/management community who so generously share their ideas, insights and knowledge. So, here are 5 posts that I totally enjoyed reading in the last week, and I am sure you will enjoy them too.

Have a Fantastic Friday and a refreshing weekend!

Photo Courtesy: Holtsman’s Flickr Stream

Are You An Artist? A Review of Seth Godin’s LINCHPIN

Over last couple of weeks, I was reading and re-reading Seth Godin’s remarkable book “Linchpin”. I have been following Seth’s blog and books since last 4 years. This book has brilliant ideas that can change the way you work, how you work and most importantly, why you work.

Linchpin urges us all to be artists – to be the best we can, to take our work to such a level that it is viewed as an art. Seth says that manufacturing world required cogs – people who follow the instructions, were compliant, low-paid and replaceable. New world of work needs people who care, who are original thinkers, risk-takers, provocateurs – Linchpins, who are difficult to replace.

Linchpin is about being remarkable – being different and being original.

On being an artist – Seth says:

‘You can be an artist who works with oil paints or marble, sure. But there are artists who work with numbers, business models, and customer conversations. Art is about intent and communication, not substances.”

This book also introduces us to “Lizard Brain” – a little voice inside our head that prevents us from being different. This voice convinces us to stick to old ways of doing work – because doing it differently is a risk, of failure and embarrassment. Lizard brain thrives on our strongest emotion – fear.

Organizations need more linchpins to deliver more value – and for people, their jobs are a platform to deliver value, to be generous, to express their unique skills and be an artist.

The book also made me realize that doing “emotional labor” is extremely important to be a linchpin. Emotional labor is the task of doing an important work, even when it is not easy. It is about walking that extra mile, when you don’t feel like doing it. A larger part of work involves doing things we don’t particularly love doing. But unless that is done, art cannot happen.

The book is a GREAT read (also a NY Times bestseller), because it drives important points home with brilliant examples and stories along the way. I specially liked the diagrammatic representation of ideas – making it simple and easy.  A blog post is way too short to express the profoundness of messages this book encapsulates.

Most people don’t know about their unique gifts – their art. It sometimes takes a lifetime to discover what their art really is. This prompted me to ask a question to Seth. Here is the question and Seth Godin’s response:

Tanmay: Being a Linchpin is impossible without actualizing with one’s gifts (that we are all born with). How does one discover these gifts and unwrap them for the world?

Seth Godin: To use your analogy, if you want to find gifts, you have to look under the tree. And if you don’t know which tree, look under all of them. Too many people want a promise that the effort will be instantly rewarded. It won’t. Fail frequently. That’s the only way I know.

Tanmay: Thank you so much. “Fail Frequently. Ship Early. Ship Often. Realign” that is my takeaway and probably the only way to discover your gifts.

Seth Godin: Thanks Tanmay! Keep Shipping.

Thanks Seth, for that insightful conversation through your book and your response.

Linchpin is a wake-up call – to stop being ordinary and compliant and start being remarkable. Life – as Seth says – is too short not to do something that matters!

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P.S: Check out Carnival of Management Improvement at Curious Cat Management Improvement Blog by John Hunter – fantastic collection of posts on leadership, improvement, lean and quality. Carnival includes my post “Building a Culture To Promote Differential Thinking

Seth Godin’s “What Matters Now” and a Few More Gems

What-Matters-Now

Seth Godin recently released a free eBook titled “What Matters Now” – it is a collaborative effort of 70 great thinkers who have presented brilliant ideas that will truly shake you up to think deep and wide as we approach 2010.

I read it and found it to be truly REMARKABLE with short and profound insights. Some of the ideas that deeply influenced me:

“Everybody has their own private Mount Everest they were put on this earth to climb” Hugh McLeod

“You are only as rich as the enrichment you bring to the world around you.”Rajesh Setty (@upbeatnow on Twitter)

“Here’s the final measure of your success as a speaker: did you change something? Are attendees leaving with a new idea, some new inspiration, perhaps a renewed commitment to their work or to the world?”Mark Hurst

“Gratefulness is a muscle, not a feeling. You need to work it out daily. Every morning, give thanks to two people that helped you yesterday and one person that will assist you today. This will focus your mind on what you have, and you’ll soon realize you are not alone.” TimSanders (@sanderssays on Twitter)

Download it now and share the invaluable wisdom from some of the best brains!

A Few More Gems

Enjoy reading these gems and have a great weekend ahead!