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Loud Nuns, Ford Pintos, and Murdering Presidents

It's rumored that President Franklin D Roosevelt was a stickler on listening.  It distressed him when he found people who chose not to listen, so during one state dinner (so urban legend has it), he greeted every guest with the phrase "I murdered my grandmother this morning."  It both amused and dismayed the president that his comment was met with an endless sea of smiles and senseless gushing... until a foreign diplomat came along and responded, "I'm sure she had it coming, Mr. President."


Paying attention.


All are a critical part of accomplishment.  We often let our perceptual filters take over, and when that happens we all get in trouble.  Often, we listen attentively at the beginning of a relationship (or even a conversation), but then we JUST KNOW what's coming next and so we tune it out.  When I was an undergrad at Central College, my ethics professor was dangerously close to retirement.  I was carrying a solid A in the class and had already surmised that he was no longer even reading my assignments, so I decided to test the theory.  When the case study arose about the infamous Ford Pinto and the exploding gas tanks (due to an inexpensive valve Ford decided to leave off), we were asked to use the utilitarian theory (greatest good for the greatest number) to argue whether Ford's decision to risk the lives of millions for economic gain was ethical.  My response went something like this (keep in mind, I was a young, cocky know-it-all in my early 20's):  "Ford was ethical for producing the Pinto without the valve, and it could be easily justified using the utilitarian point of view.  If you think about the type of person most likely to drive a Ford Pinto, it is a benefit to society as a whole that they be most likely to die in a fiery crash."  Soon thereafter, my paper came back with a solid 'A' and the professor feedback, "It's about time somebody took the Ford position and argued it well."


Are YOU listening?  Are you hearing?  Are you paying attention?  Are you staying focused?  Are you holding your perceptual filters in check?  I love this scene from Sister Act.  There are so many lessons on listening from this one little scene:

If you're like I am, and listening is a constant struggle to fight for focus among many competing inputs, you may need to follow Sister Mary Clarence's advice:  "Alma! (stomp, stomp) Check your battery!"

Your "battery" may include your feelings about the speaker, your own health, what you're having for lunch, the usefulness of the conversation, perceptions about the topic, what you're going to say next, why the speaker is wrong... well, the list goes on.  Whatever is preventing you from listening, check it at the door.  Your conversations and your accomplishments will get a lot farther.

Calling Your Bookie

Stack_of_books Books.

More books.

And even more books.

Looks like Age of Conversation 3 is out and released so Drew McLellan and Gavin Heaton can finally start breathing again.  Remember, all the proceeds from this book go to charity, and you won't find a more useful collection of social media essays ANYWHERE (well, unless you include Age of Conversations 1 and 2).  And by buying Age of Conversation 3, you'll find out the REAL reasons why I think social media ROCKS.

Speaking of books, my friend Jim Bouchard released his latest on Amazon.  This is a guy who has it all together.  It's hard to find that right combination of engaging, smart, and good looking (he sports the same "haircut" I do).  If you want to learn how to apply the concepts of martial arts to step up your business game (and life in general) a few quantum leaps, then invest in Think Like a Blackbelt.

And finally, the perpetually beautiful (inside and out) Rosa Say wrote a wonderful piece reviewing SWAT - Seize the Accomplishment.  What I truly love about Rosa is she is the consumate systems thinker... and she lives this stuff.  To receive praise from her is high praise indeed.  Mahalo, Rosa!

Finally, I'm a bit saddened to learn that Rita Mulcahy passed away recently following a battle with cancer.  Those in the project management community know firsthand the legacy this pioneer left on our profession.  She basically wrote the book (literally) on passing the PMP certification exam.  I've been honored that her subsidiary, The Project Management Bookstore, carries all three of my titles (Race Through The Forest, GUST, and SWAT).  Project management has lost a passionate beacon.

I think I'll curl up with a chapter of Walden tonight to finish up the week.  Nothing like a little Thoreau to cap things off:

"A truly good book teaches me better than to read it. I must soon lay it down, and commence living on its hint. What I began by reading, I must finish by acting."

Here We Go Loop-De-Loo

Spanking_kids Recently, I've been observing a lot of real-life "labs" in Consequence 101.  People I know have been receiving feedback on their past actions.  For some of them, their actions have been occurring for months and years.  But luck ran out, fate caught up, and consequence won out.

I'm not going to pass judgment on these individuals or on their actions.  But it is a good lesson in systems thinking when it's applied to human behavior.  I've talked about systems thinking a ton over the past couple of years.  Most of the time, it has been in the context of organizations and accomplishment.  However, systems thinking applies equally well to how people act.

I love to watch people, and I especially love to watch people reacting to other people.  I was recently in a meeting where a professional was passionately trying to get his point across.  He was coming across somewhat abrasively, and the body language around the room told me this was not the first exchange where this individual overstepped his bounds.  Postures stiffened; facial expressions became defensive; responses were curt.  But this individual was missing a vital piece of the feedback loop.  And so his output (behavior) became an input for the inevitable next exchange sometime in the future.

The feedback loop of systems thinking is highly consistent.  You can occasionally trick it with a rogue input, and the system will forgive you.  But if you keep pushing the system with bad inputs, the feedback loop does catch up, and when the system pushes back, it pushes back hard.  I've mentioned Peter Senge's Beer Game before.  When the retailer, wholesaler, and manufacturer see the patterns in the greater system, they realize how their bad decisions led to horrible consequences.

What about you?  Are your decisions and behaviors showing up in various feedback loops?  How are people responding to your actions and words?  When/how will the feedback loop catch up to you?  Can you reverse the trend of your behavioral system before it's too late?  Trust me, I've been on the receiving end of systems thinking feedback loop spanking.  It's easier just to pay attention to the system when it gives you a gentle nudge the first time.

It's a People Person Kind of Thing

A couple of years ago, I wrote a piece asking how green your relationships were.  My premise was that to accomplish great things, you sometimes have to be environmental with your time... meaning:  you must dispose of (or at least greatly diminish) relationships that are wasteful and energy-sucking.

Phil_Ellen There is a flip side to that premise, though, as I was cheerfully reminded this week.  I've spent the first half of the week in Milwaukee, teaching a class for UWM.  In the evenings, I was treated to the magnificently wonderful company of Phil Gerbyshak and Ellen Winters.  These two people always energize me, even when I'm at my lowest.  The fun and laughter we share are genuine and uplifting.  When they ask me where I want to go eat, it really doesn't matter because 1) wherever we are, we'll have a good time; and 2) Phil and Ellen know all the best restaurants (I'll eat well regardless).  I can honestly say they are two of my favorite people.

After time with them, I always feel ready to accomplish great things once again.  You just can't come away from their company without feeling better.

So... who are YOUR energizers?  With whom do you keep the best company?  If you are effectively purging the toxic relationships, are you filling your time with the really positive ones?  It may seem like a simple concept, but think about how you feel after spending time with various people in your life.  Wouldn't you reather feel energized and excited rather than drained and depressed?  I know I would.  Work to identify and seek out those "carpe factum" enablers in your life.  It's a great investment of time and energy.

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