Monday, March 31, 2008

Check out The Summit Blog

In case you've been mourning the lack of new posts on this Peak Performance blog, no worries. I'm still here, posting most weekdays at The Summit Blog, our new company blogsite. You'll find tips and war stories, observations and the occasional book review there. You can even sign up for an email subscription in case you don't want to go on the web to read the posts.

Thanks for following this blog. I'll be keeping the archives open so you can still search the blog for a post on a topic that interests you.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Achieve better results by setting specific goals

It's that time of year when the mantra becomes "get in shape for Summer." Well, what in the heck does "get in shape" mean? I have a colleague that says, "I'm in shape - a sphere is a shape!" Even if you've not joined in the mantra, there are lessons to be learned in this example on making goals specific to increase the chances that you'll achieve them. So bear with me.

Goals defined by specific results

What's your definition of "in shape"? Is it a certain number of pounds or a certain percentage of body fat? Is it the ability to walk to the end of the driveway to pick up the mail without being out of breath? Unless you define it in specific terms you won't know whether it's achieveable and you won't be able to measure it. So you won't ever really be able to experience the thrill of victory associated with achieving it.

Here are some examples of "get in shape" specific goals as defined by results:
  • Weigh 130 healthy pounds by 5/31/08.
  • Bench press 200 pounds by 10/1/08.
  • Finish a half-marathon by November 30, 2008.

Goals defined by specific activities

Sometimes you don't know what the specific results are going to be, or you know that the results are so long-term that they won't keep you on track right now. So you set a goal around the activities that you expect will get you the results you want. Activity goals in and of themselves aren't necessarily the best goals - you can be busy and still going nowhere, and they need to be evaluated regularly to see whether they are indeed getting you closer to your goals. But when you've linked them to the ultimate result and you're checking them regularly against the RBG (really big goal) they can do the job well for you. Here are some examples:

  • Work out at the gym for at least 1 hour 3 days per week starting 3/26/08.
  • Drink 8 glasses of water per day starting 3/31/08.
  • Eat 5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day starting 3/26/08.
  • Schedule my free fitness assessment at the health club on or before 4/30/08.

You'll notice that the activity goals (with the exception of the last one) have no finish lines - they have only start dates. If you want to build your confidence (and your accountability) you might want to consider setting them for a month at a time. Or if you expect that they are going to be relatively difficult adaptations in behavior for you to establish, set them a week at a time. You get to define what short term and long term goal timeframes are. Match them to your level of motivation and the degree of difficulty of the goal for you.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Theory of Multiple Intelligences

Good news if you've been disappointed by your results on a traditional IQ (Intelligence Quotient) test: according to the Theory of Multiple Intelligences the test that you took doesn't adequately represent how intelligent you are. Psychologist Howard Gardner theorizes that there are multiple ways in which to be intelligent.

In the multiple intelligences paradigm every individual is a unique combination of
  1. Linguistic - ability with words, reading, writing, memorization of dates
  2. Math - reasoning, abstract pattern recognition, scientific thinking, ability to do complex calculations
  3. Music - sensitivity to music, sounds, often absolute pitch, respond well to aural modes of learning like lecture
  4. Spatial - good at visualizing and manipulating objects, may also have a good sense of direction
  5. Kinesthetic - ability with movement and doing, such as dancing and athletics, often good muscle memory and learns best by doing
  6. Interpersonal - ability to communicate with others, extroverts sensitive to others' moods, work well in groups and enjoy discussion and debate
  7. Intrapersonal - process information best alone, self-aware, often an affinity for thought-based pursuits
  8. Naturalistic - the newest (1996) and still under debate - the ability to identify species, nurture and grow things, to see one's place in nature

Educators and trainers have considered the application of multiple intelligences theory in the design of learning methods. For example:

  • teaching children mathematic concepts or spelling via rhythm
  • teaching history by involving teens in a debate to defend or dispute the perspectives of the colonists vs. the British prior to the American Revolution
  • playing music in the background during work sessions
  • learning counting by manipulating objects such as sticks or blocks

If you feel like you're not getting through to someone, consider whether you're framing your message in a manner consistent with their intelligence type. If they're kinesthetic show them and have them practice physically doing something. If they're musical or interpersonal talk with them. You get the idea.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Helping your team develop fresh ideas

Are your staff meetings sounding like the same-old, same-old? Is the group retreading over the same solutions for the same problems? If you want to shake things up a bit, here are some quick ideas for helping your team develop fresh ideas:
  • Form a book club. Choose a relevant text and incorporate a discussion of one chapter into each staff meeting until you're all the way through it.
  • Take a field trip. Go see a competitor's operation, or a noncompetitor in a similar industry. Or for that matter, visit a business that's barely like yours at all. You'll still find some transferable ideas, and if they come from a completely new frame of reference they're likely to freshen things up for you.
  • Go to a conference. See what's new and have the opportunity to network with other businesses to find out what's working for them.
  • Join a customer's trade association. If you really want to develop customer loyalty you can do so best by standing in their shoes. Find out what their issues are and you can better develop solutions for them. And you might meet some other potential customers in the process...
  • Bring in a guest speaker. Find an authority on the subject of concern and pick their brain. (That concept looks kind of creepy in print - maybe I need a new metaphor!)
  • Scour the blogs. If you're reading this you already are checking out the blogosphere, but try the blog carnivals if you want a lot of content on a particular subject.
  • Send your team home to play with their kids. Believe it or not, when I was a kid my dad developed a patent for the cold extrusion of metal by playing with my brother and me and our Play-Doh Fun Factory! Kids use different tools, and they're not restricted by the same number of assumptions as adults are.
  • Rock the boat. Change something. Rearrange the desks so people work adjacent to somebody new. Be open to the concept of discomfort and a bit of storming. It's said that if the boat isn't rocking it probably isn't moving forward, either.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Christian spiritual practice - the prayer labyrinth

Today is Maundy Thursday, in Christian practice the commemoration of the day that Christ had his last supper with his disciples, then was betrayed by Judas. It was the day that put the wheels in motion toward his arrest and crucifixion. While Easter celebrates the eternal life available to believers through Christ's rising from the dead, Maundy Thursday and Good Friday convey the enormity of the sacrifice he made on behalf of mankind.

For Christians this is a time of contemplation, and currently some Christian churches are rediscovering the process of the prayer labyrinth.

Wikipedia says that "the Prayer Labyrinth was adopted by the Church across Europe during the medieval times, being often used as a means to meditate, pray and connect with God in a higher spiritual way. Numerous cathedrals in Europe have prayer labytinths embedded into their floors, with the Cathedral of Chartres (Notre-Dame de Chartres Cathedral), located about 80 km from Paris having one of the most famous prayer labyrinths in the world. Prayer Labyrinths were often viewed and modeled as a journey to Jerusalem and were even called Chemin de Jerusalem (Road of Jerusalem) serving as a spiritual pilgrimage for those who could not afford to travel to Jerusalem, the center of the world."

The practitioner enters the path, sometimes assisted by music or guided reading. They move at their own pace and are invited to stop along the path of the labyrinth to pray and meditate. Unlike a maze, which is designed to confound an entrant, the labyrinth has only one path to follow. The end of the labyrinth is visible and the practitioner will reach it if he or she follows the path.

Modern Christian churches that are rediscovering the prayer labyrinth are often doing so in the context of the Lenten season leading up to Good Friday and Easter, when Christians are focused on seeking reconciliation with God. If you are interested in finding a labyrinth, click here for a locator.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Book Wish List - Six-Word Memoirs

I was listening to Jean Chatzky on XM 156 yesterday where they were talking about summing up your life in six words. A new book on the topic called Not Quite What I Was Planning: Six-Word Memoirs by Writers Famous and Obscure, edited by Smith Magazine, was just released February 5.

Here's the premise - choose six words that could explain your life or be used on an epitaph. I used the idea as an ice breaker with a development group the other day and it was quite fun. Here are some examples:
  • When I'm gray I'll go red (that was Jean Chatzky's)
  • Two young kids, no free time (that's mine)
    From the book:
  • Seventy years, few tears, hairy ears - Bill Querengesser
  • Extremely responsible, secretly longed for spontaneity - Sabra Jennings
  • Painful nerd kid, happy nerd adult - Linda Williamson
  • I'm my mother and I'm fine - K. Bertrand
  • Grumpy old soundman needs love, too - Lenny Rosengard
  • Joined army. Came out. Got booted. - Johan Baumeister

This isn't just a fun activity. Challenge yourself to be profound, witty, topical, provocative, spiritual, intellectual, etc. Who knows - you might find your genius in there!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Doing isn't necessarily the best thing

This week is really hectic (thus no post yesterday) for me, and although that's a good thing - business is great! - the constant motion can interfere with productivity. Yes, I said that constantly doing isn't necessarily the best thing.

When you're subject to a wild schedule, and a lot of times your obligations involve commitments to other people, it's easy to slip into reaction mode. The times when you're busiest are the times when you're most likely to fall into autopilot mode. You're more likely to be operating based upon habits of thought and behavior, some of which might not be the best thoughts and actions for this particular time or situation.

Hit the pause button
Stop before you act and hit the pause button. Instead of taking the first action that comes to your mind stop and evaluate the other options and the risks and/or opportunities associated with them. If you can, confer with someone to gain a fresh perspective.

Take a five-minute vacation
No matter how busy you are today take some time (even 5 minutes) to stop and find a quiet space and clear your mind. Focus on your breathing, focus on the sensations of aliveness in your fingers, toes, arms and legs. Let the world melt away and just BE. If you're too tense to just BE, start from the top of your body and work your way down to your feet and tighten your muscles, then release. It'll help you relax.

Change the scenery
Physically change something - your position in your chair, the room you're in, walk outside. Fresh stimulus lends fresh ideas. Or the reverse of that, if you're having a "senior moment" because of all of the mental clutter return to the spot you were in when you had the idea and it will likely return to you.

Make an appointment to recuperate
You can't drive your car endlessly without refueling and changing the oil, so why treat your body any differently? Go home a couple of minutes earlier than you were originally planning. Play relaxing music. Eat a nutritious meal. Go to bed early to build your physical resources for the next challenge.