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Totally Radical

Radical_Leap_ReenergizedMy buddy, Steve Farber, has been at it again. He's recently re-released his first two books, Radical Leap and Radical Edge, into a single book: The Radical Leap Re-Energized - Doing what you love in the service of those who love what you do.

The basic content of both books is still there. Farber's writing is unparallelled. Even if you are not a fan of the "business fable" genre, I double-dog dare you to read Farber's stuff and not be a changed person by the time you reach the last page.

I've been using Farber's books in my class for almost five years. I can honestly state first-hand that after 17 years of adjunct instructing, no other author has had as much of a real impact on my students than Farber. I've taught Farber to approximately 200 students, and here are some of the RESULTS:

  • Approximately 1/3 of the students have switched employers (or in some cases, switched career paths altogether) because they were totally convicted by Farber's message
  • At least 15% of all my students who have read Farber found the courage to relocate to a different city/state so they can "do what they love in the service of those who love what they do"
  • Virtually all of my students have described Farber's work as "life-changing" in some way

As for me? I completely believe in the message in this book. I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing now without the Love-Energy-Audacity-Proof formula it takes to change the world... or at least my small corner of it.

As you are making plans and resolutions for 2012, add Farber to your list. It may be just the thing to create a New Year where YOU can change the world.

But Did You Save The Project Receipt?

Ugly_sweaterThe ugly (as in "should be arrested for wearing it in public") sweater.

The 100-pack of sausages from around the globe.

The autographed autobiography of Charlie Sheen.

Tube socks and Old Spice.

So, do we have any other nominations for re-gifting? Or should we do society a favor and make sure these things make it to the nearest dumpster, never to see the light of day again? They are officially known as the undesirable Christmas present. The first year I was married, my wife's grandmother sent me some very "interesting" underwear that was two sizes too small. Suffice it to say, I was thankful that there was a gift receipt that came with them.

Unfortunately, projects do not come with gift receipts.  Some of them should. We tend to lock our projects down with constraints the way we lock our friends and family down with Aunt Maude's Fruit Cake (which is actually the same cake that was baked in 1951, the year she was married, and has been regifted for the past 60 years).

Being on the receiving end of projects, I've been gifted with some real stinkers. While I generally enjoy the challenge of project recoveries, there are some traits which make certain project rescues better than others. And there are other projects that are the equivalent of the bedazzled and hand-painted Christmas tie. One year I got a claims system project with a bi-polar sponsor, a passive-aggressive team, and a vendor with delusions of grandeur. Another one was a compliance project where the previous project manager had annoyed everybody to the point he was ostracized, the sponsor was young and clueless, and the lead BA had the charm of a porcupine.

The trick to avoid getting stuck with a dog gift is simple: set some expectations early with your key project stakeholders. Think of it as giving yourself a VISA gift card. Set some general parameters or boundaries. This allows the project manager to avoid micromanaging stakeholders, the project equivalent of being forced to wear the light-up sweatshirt that blinks "I brake for reindeer." A good idea is creating a "How We Work Together" document at the BEGINNING of a project. If 90% of a project manager's time should be spent in communication, then setting expectations up front on boundaries, scope, and parameters will be critical to creating a relevant and meaningful experience.

What about you?  How do you prevent receiving the project equivalent of the hand-knitted Santa Claus tissue-cozy?

(Modified from a post I published for Iowabiz)

Merry Christmas

"But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart." Luke 2:19 NIV


From Carpe Factum, here's hoping your Christmas has been filled with treasures for your heart also. Have a blessed holiday season.

Oh, You Better Watch Out

Thomas-nast-santaWhat does Santa Claus look like?

Well, no "good" boys or girls really know for certain since they're in bed asleep when jolly ol' St. Nick leaves toys under the tree. Worldwide, there are numerous images of Kris Kringle, but here in the USA, we have adopted the image of the rubenesque elf in red. And for this, we have Thomas Nast to thank.


Who is Thomas Nast?

Those not familiar with American History may not recognize the name, but he was a 19th Century editorial cartoonist famous for exposing some of the worst political corruption of the late 1800's. He is also the one responsible for our image of the GOP as an elephant and the democrats as a donkey.

But we're talking about Santa Claus here. Mr. Nast drew upon his European roots to create his version of Santa. And it stuck. So the image that we now have is thanks to his keen imagery.

How often do we let others' define our perceptions of reality? Be it political beliefs, religious beliefs, organizational culture beliefs, relational beliefs, or accomplishment beliefs, are YOU in control of what you believe to be true, or have you blindly accepted what OTHERS have told you is reality?

We've let Thomas Nast define our reality of Santa for 150 years. My guess is there are many who think Santa has ALWAYS looked that way since his inception. And we've done the same for our other perceptions of reality as well. Unless you turn off Fox News/MSNBC, open your own Bible, review company your policies, read and review current literature, read opposing viewpoints, etc., you will ALWAYS see things the way you've always seen them.

I was talking with someone recently who did not want to work with another person because they "had heard" they were difficult. I happened to know the other person rather well and knew how the perception had been perpetuated. Hence, I began peppering my conversation-mate with questions about HOW they arrived at this perception. They had heard it from one other person... one, mind you... but had never worked or even met the "offending party" themselves. No research. Pretty sad that they were willing to discount someone based on one other's commentary.

So the best gift you can give yourself this Christmas season is the gift of an open mind. Learn to challenge your own perceptions of reality and define your own Santa.

Do You Hear What I Hear?

Christmas_MusicI love the Christmas season, but I there's little I love more than the music. There are certain CD's which sit expectantly on the shelf for 11 months, and then get constant airing for a 5-week period.

However, there are certain songs that stand out... primarily because of the way the artist performed them. Some Christmas carols are just tied to the artist... you think of the song, you think of the artist... you think of the artist, you think of the song.

It may be the first person who performed it, like Eartha Kitt's "Santa, Baby." Perhaps it's just a song that's not overplayed, like Karen Carpenter's "Christmas Waltz." Maybe, the artist was so ubiquitous that they eclipsed every other artist before them, like Dean Martin's "Baby, it's cold outside." It could be that the artist created a unique sound with the song... Mannheim Steamroller's "Silent Night" or The Blenders' "The First Noel."

What about YOUR accomplishments? Have you made an indelible stamp on what you do? When people see your PowerPoints, do they think of you personally? When they read your status reports, do they automatically hear your voice speaking? When you lead a meeting, does your personal brand of accomplishment shine through?

Think about how you can add your personal stamp on the things you do in the coming year. "Yule" be glad you did.

'Twas the Month Before Caucus

BloommouseIt's such a charming, age-old story: right before a major holiday event, the little know-it-all mousy man writes an editorial that does not represent the masses well but certainly infuriates and discourages them. Parental figure gently chastises little mousy man, chiding him that he thinks he knows everything but he doesn't. Audience waits for happy ending when the holiday event is restored and all is forgiven. (OK, that last part only occurs on television.)

Straight out of a Rankin-Bass cartoon, I've been enjoying the drama that's unfolded over "professor" Stephen Bloom recently. His recent article in the Atlantic paints Iowans in a most unfavorable light of broad strokes of stereotyping and bad research, most unbecoming a so-called "intellectual" of his presumed caliber. (So glad he's an employee of our "dismally crime-infested" state.)

University of Iowa President Sally Mason (in the role of Father Mouse) tries to save Christmas... er... caucus... (um... the reputation of her university) through some damage control. The local tshirt shop has had a field day with the ridicule (Merry Christmas, Raygun... little Stevie figured your Romney "corporations are people, too" sales were growing thin, so he gave you a gift for the holidays).

After 45 years here, I can say with certainty that Iowa is a quirky place full of contradiction and paradox. I both love it passionately and blame it for my hair loss. It and its people amuse and befuddle me. But unlike Bloom, I see the potential and beauty and brilliance of this state and its people. I consider myself fairly well traveled, and I think it says a lot for the state of Iowa that I always look forward to returning home. Also, unlike Bloom, when I make a comment about another person or group of people, I can take responsibility and ownership for my actions and words and not act suprised if others are offended, hurt, or angry. Methinks that somebody has spent too much time in his own little ivory tower. We'll see if "Father Mouse" (President Mason) suggests an early retirement as a way to "fix the clock."

Bottom Line: Communication is not a hard concept... unless you're a certain journalism professor at the University of Iowa.

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