Monday, June 20, 2011

Improving Upon Setbacks

Most of my blog articles discuss my thoughts on improvement etc and relatively positive topics. I haven't really discussed setbacks and how I try to handle them. While being driven has it's upside, it can take a toll emotionally, and every once in a while you hit a slump. It just so seems that when I experience disappointment, it happens in multiples. Everyone's disappointments are relative so I can't say mine are worse or less than someone else's.

Here are a few things that have just burnt me lately:
My general competition performance for the last month
Some issues at work
Making some poor choices socially
Not spending enough time with friends

So why is this important to me? I should just wipe the memory clean like I've done before and move on right? It could be my ego. It could be my expectations of my performance completely misaligned with my actual skill. How did I realize this was becoming a problem? A few things. My mood was changing. I was jumping to conclusions. My sleep was off.

Usually I'm pretty good about getting into the right state and starting fresh. I noticed lately that while I could get into the right state quickly, it didn't last. It would be like that last cup of coffee that only keeps your eyes open because it's hot. Something was wrong. I didn't know why. When your best tools don't work for you anymore, I had to start asking questions.

I had some really good tools available to me that I built using NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming). Simply put, they're thought sequences you can put together, that can have a very strong effect on you. If you haven't heard of NLP, you still know what I'm talking about. Think about biting into a big juicy lemon. Do you start to salivate? Well what if you could build a thought that could trigger the physiological conditions you wanted? NLP can help you with that. Whenever I was nervous, I would think of a blue column of light, and it was enough to make me feel immediately relaxed. You can really use any image you want. That's the pain med, but what about the cure?

I guess I really have none. Just constant improvement. Here are some things that are top of mind.

Being a true professional
Clean, repeatable delivery
Taking responsibility
Putting together solid apologies

Each one of these is an article in itself and I'll follow each with a question. This tends to guide my thinking if I end it openly.

On being a true professional, I feel it's the insulation between what the client wants, and what you want to do. My idea of a true professional is delivering the best possible value for the client while improving the business position of your firm. The insulation is from the emotions, the inner workings of yourself, and your organization, so that your client only gets to see the results and in a form that's easily consumable by them. Am I providing a cushion with my clients so that my work is easily appreciated, understandable, and delivers real value?

On clean, repeatable delivery, it's important to be able to repeat success. I was reading an article in Harvard Business discussing how only failures are studied. Maybe I need to spend more time reviewing our wins, and how we can duplicate them?

On taking responsibility, I've seen folks who point the finger, and pass the buck. I've seen others who openly take responsibility. I think that people don't take responsibility because it may imply guilt. This may be a self imposed judgment, since many situations simply require a decision and not a scapegoat. You can go left, you can go right, doesn't matter. The question is how do we improve the follow through? What can I do to take more ownership and improve my follow through?

An addendum to taking responsibility, is ownership of the situation. If you messed up, or the situation itself is messed up, it might be worth taking ownership. And send out a good apology if necessary. A half ass apology is worse than no apology, so it's worth putting together one that's well done. Some good suggestions I got from Randy Pausch's book is to acknowledge the hurt done, offer a way to remedy it as well. Am I making good, solid apologies that I stand by? Am I owning them?

Those are my ideas on how to improve things and I'm working on them.