Thursday, March 31, 2011

Blog posts should be approached with caution....


This warning should be added to every tweet, status update and blog post. 

Use your skills of critical thinking and analysis before you incorporate any way of thinking into your philosophy or approach to life.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Creating true engagement with others

True engagement with others is what we achieve when both sides are actively engaging with each other in a manner that is trusting, respectful as well as positively challenging.

Today I had the privilege of speaking to a group of students who attend what is called a 'kura kaupapa maori'.  A kura kaupapa is a Wananga (school) whereby the students spend their time conversing in their native tongue - in this case Maori.

I was briefed that I would talk to the students for a few minutes about Forestry and Farming.  The mistake I made was in assuming that the students had an idea of what and how big the industry is.  Boy - was I wrong!  They had very little understanding of our industry.  Then the lesson began...

What happened was the session we had together ended up being 30 minutes in length (instead of the allocated 10 minutes) and the kids were actively engaging with me while I spoke.  How did I do this?  I told the students that they had to ask me 3 questions before they could move on to the next stage of their tour.  That was the starting point for what was to follow.

What eventuated was that as I let them ask questions we developed a conversation whereby the students were able to ask me anything they liked and I did my best to answer them.  It ended up that I had to stop the questions because they had so many to ask!

So why did it work?

  1. I engaged them through making them ask the questions.  Making people think is the most crucial element when engaging with others.
  2. I listened to them.  When they ask me a question I always tried to answer it and then I would follow up with a question of my own to get them to continue their thinking which would then lead to the next question.
  3. I showed enthusiasm and told my own story.  This is the acid test - do you keep it real?  I encouraged each of those kids to go on and study at University.  I am fully aware that some of those kids may never get to University.  But I tell my story - which is that I didn't start University until I was 30.

Getting positive engagement with people really is easy.  It starts with finding common ground, building trust through communication and ultimately walking away and knowing both sides have received some good from the engagement.

Want to know what i enjoy best about my job? People.  Be it mainstream school students, kura kaupapa students right through to senior citizens.  I love engaging with them all.


Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Psychological Capital (Psycap) and it's benefits

Have you ever wondered what "Psycap" stands for?  Have you ever even heard of it?

Psycap stands for - psychological capital.  This evening I had the great pleasure of attending a meeting cum lecture that was given by Maree Roche for the local branch of HRINZ.

Here is the basic rundown on the four key elements of psycap -

  1. Efficacy.  This is the quality of persistence mixed with confidence.
  2. Optimism.  People have a realistic handle on what is happening in the here and now but are still able to see positive outcomes.  This is a permanent trait that is ongoing unlike a feeling of happiness.
  3. Resilience.  People not only bounce back from the not so good events in life but they rebound and go beyond where they were previously.  They go beyond better.
  4. Hope.  This was described as being waypower.  So people are able to not only recognise that a barrier is front of them but the person is able to source/seek out new ways of approaching the problem and coming to a solution.

The ideal people and the happiest employees/managers have all four of these qualities which they are able to display, said Mrs Roche.

So why be bothered with psycap?  Check out this quote -

"Published research on PsyCap has found that it is related to multiple performance outcomes in the workplace, lower employee absenteeism, less employee cynicism and intentions to quit, and higher job satisfaction, commitment, and organizational citizenship behaviors. Research has also found PsyCap can be enhanced by a supportive work climate. In terms of being state-like, PsyCap has been developed by short training sessions in both classroom and field settings and electronically through the internet (Luthans, Avey & Patera,2007)." (Source:

The question I had was - can we grow these qualities in people? And if so how?

Another thinking point I had was do the people who have these qualities actually make it to higher levels of management or do they stay stationary and just do well where they are at?

Here is the model for how it all fits together -


In short probably the best thing you can do if you want to know more (without all the deeply scientific bits) would be to read Drive by Dan Pink.


Monday, March 28, 2011

Brainstroming for profit


This little beauty of a slide show is available at  I couldn't say it better - so I leave it to you to check it out.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

start small but start


Starting is the best thing you can do. 

Starting a business? Find one or two loyal customers.

Starting running? Run for 5 minutes.

Starting swimming? Do half a length.

Starting a new job? Go easy.

Starting is the best thing you can do.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Pick a fight or create an outcome?

There are three options available with every situation -

  1. Ignore whats happening and put your head in the sand.
  2. Pick a fight with someone and lengthen the amount of time that it will take to create a real outcome.  Maybe even land yourself in hot water with Human Resources.
  3. Seek out positive and complimentary outcomes and reduce the amount of time needed to fix the situation.

My advice is to seek out positive outcomes and look for where bridges can be built rather than creating negative situations that only lead to more trouble.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sisyphus - a tale of madness

"As a punishment from the gods for his trickery, Sisyphus was made to roll a huge boulder up a steep hill, but before he could reach the top of the hill, the rock would always roll back down, forcing him to begin again. The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for Sisyphus due to his hubristic belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus. As a result when Sisyphus was condemned to his punishment, Zeus displayed his own cleverness by binding Sisyphus to an eternity of frustration with the boulder rolling away from Sisyphus when he neared the top of the hill."

(Source: Wikipedia)

What tasks do you do that you can never complete?  How close can you get to finishing a project before you lose control of it and it rolls back on you?  When is it time to call it a new day and find a new task to do?

The definition of madness - doing the same thing, over and over and over again....


Here's the challenge -

  1. Identify area's tasks and projects that never end and never finish in your working life.
  2. Ask for help from others to get that boulder over the hill.
  3. Or walk away and let someone else start rolling the boulder instead...

Monday, March 21, 2011

Bringing People in to your Project

There are some basic rules that govern good project management.  You have a plan, sponsors, milestones and outcomes.  So there should be no issues so far.

What is tricky though is bringing various people onto your project at different stages as the project is developing.  We had this exact issue at work about a month ago.  A project and team had been formed and was well on it's way working towards it's goal.

The issue was that a meeting was called whereby people outside of the project team were asked to share their opinion and their voice on what was happening.  This was the issue - the new people weren't told where the project had gotten to at that stage.

So at the meeting of the two teams (new and old) the old team assumed the new team knew what was required of them, where the project had progressed to and would offer either constructive criticism or just totally agree with what had been done so far.

What we as the new team members did do was assume the following -

  • the project was new
  • therefore there were no boundaries
  • whatever we contributed would be valued and properly considered

The reality was this -

  • the project was already well under way
  • momentum had reached it's peak
  • therefore what we said had little to no impact on the outcomes of the project.

So - if you are running a project you need to be clear when communicating to people along the way that you get involved with your project about the following -

  • how long has the project been in existence
  • how can those people assist the project
  • what expectations do you have of the new members as far as their contribution.

By following these basic points of communication you too can make sure that when people are giving up their time to help you then everyone is clear of just what exactly it is that they are meant to be doing.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

How are your HR hiring practices? Friday Funny.

So what are your hiring practices like -  

Do you look for the cheapest option/person available at the time of hire? 

Do you assume that you can 'fix' someone or school them?

Do you even speak the same language?  Management language? Sense of humour language?

Do you let employees know what is expected of them?

How do you correct employees if they are doing it wrong?

And if you do hire someone what options do you have to get rid of them if they don't work out?

Remember - if you pay peanuts, you'll get monkeys! 

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Social Media is a relationship... not a one night stand



As an educational facility we use social media to talk about what we are up to.  We also use social media for an association I belong to and the workers union.

The problem I see is that we spend a lot of time broadcasting news headlines and not so much time engaging in conversation.  There is no shortage of posts or interesting stories being put out there for people to read.

The issue is engaging with our clients/customers/stake holders.  From where I sit the issue is in finding stories or starting conversations that get students to talk to us.

Nothing beats face to face and one on one conversations.  But when we have 9,000 students spread across a huge land area.  So speaking to each of those students one on one?  It just isn't going to happen.

From where we sit as educators we assume it would be easy to engage students.  We spend up to 30 hours a week with students in the classroom.  We teach them, work with them and ultimately we hope change their lives.  So why the resistance or apathy from the students when it comes to engaging with us?

Any ideas anyone?

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Danger! Danger Will Robinson! Danger!

A great example of interaction

Sports watchers and followers can be pretty wild and open about their opinions when it comes to sport.  Usually the referee is the one that cops the blame for any problems, mistakes or losses.

In 2011 the NRL has made a move to quieten the barrage of complaints by getting the referees boss - to explain the situation.

What Bill Harrigan does is explains why decisions were made in a certain way and clarifies any calls that may have been seen as being wrong.  This is one of the greatest communication strategies in sports today.

This works.  Why?

  • Open communication.  fans know what decisions have been made and why.
  • Honesty.  Being open and telling people about what decisions you made and why is integral to gaining peoples trust.
  • The ability to admit you are wrong.  Yes, we got it wrong.  Nothing speaks louder than apologising if you get it wrong.
  • Speed of communication.  Fans want to know right now what happened.  They will use social media, radio, newspapers - whatever it takes to share their opinions about the state of the game.  It is vital that if there is a particular area of your business that acts as a lightning rod - then my recommendation is to be proactive.
  • Proactivity reduces the need for reactivity.  Speed to react and communicate is vital.  Shut down negativity before it begins.
  • Feedback.  Both sides of the game/business have an opportunity to speak their mind and understand where each other is coming from.  So what ultimately happens is that the game becomes seamless.  Players, managers, referees and fans all get the ability to interact in one giant semaless community that is called sport.

I giving this idea by the NRL two thumbs up!  And go the mighty NZ Warriors!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Podcast review - "Creating Enchantment" by Guy Kawasaki.

I enjoy running.  Running is a great hobby because it only requiires you (one person) some shoes and some exercise.  One of the benefits of running is the time that you have available to think, reflect or listen.

The Stanford Entreprenurial Thought Leaders series is one pocast that I have been listening to for the past 12 months (ever since I finally managed to get an iPod).  And for the past 12 months this series of podcasts has continued to be listened to - week in and week out.

I was blown away by the awesomeness that is the podcast by Guy Kawasaki.  This is a totally well rounded speech delivered by the consumate professional that is Mr Kawasaki.

What is delivered is a 60 minute master class in both management and innovation techniques, as well as a tutorial in how to write a speech, create a presentation and how to pull it off with ease.  This presentation, I think, was set up as a sales pitch for the new book "Enchantment" by said author stated above.  What really happens is the presentor takes the big lessons of the book, breaks them down into a series of easy to understand points and leaves the listener with the challenge of applying all the lessons to themselves.

Here;s some background on Mr Kawasaki -

"Guy Kawasaki is the co-founder of, an “online magazine rack” of popular topics on the web, and a founding partner at Garage Technology Ventures. Previously, he was the chief evangelist of Apple. Kawasaki is the author of ten books including Enchantment, Reality Check, The Art of the Start, Rules for Revolutionaries, How to Drive Your Competition Crazy, Selling the Dream, and The Macintosh Way. Kawasaki has a BA from Stanford University and an MBA from UCLA as well as an honorary doctorate from Babson College."


So if you a) enjoy running, b) enjoy great presentations or c) want management advice - then I recommend you download this podcast.

Here is the presentation -

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Cards anyone?

Personality Poker - 5 deck set

Product description

Personality Poker by Stephen Shapiro

5 deck set includes: 5 decks + instruction manual  + streaming video

If your organization is having a difficult time staying ahead of the curve, it’s probably suffering from sameness—the widespread condition in organizations where commonality is valued above individuality. Unbeknownst to most, chronic sameness destroys innovation and creative thinking. 

Introducing Personality Poker, the playing card tool for driving high-performance teamwork and innovation.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Weightless Economy

Until this morning (call me ignorant) I had not come across the concept of the 'weightless economy'.  It was mentioned by an economist while talking about the recovery of the New Zealand economy.


So what is it?  I honestly don't know but I have a book on reserve at the local library that I am going to get out shortly (within the next hour) and will start reading.

Here is an excerpt from an article published in The Economist -

What is the weightless economy?

"By the weightless economy, I mean that part of the economy comprising the following four categories:

1. Information and communications technology (ICT), including the Internet.

2. Intellectual property, including not only patents and copyrights but more broadly, namebrands, trademarks, advertising, financial and consulting services, health care (medical knowledge), and education.

3. Electronic libraries and databases, including new media, video entertainment, and broadcasting.

4. Biotechnology, which includes carbon-based libraries and databases, as well as pharmaceuticals.


Here's my hypothesis - a weightless economy is one that uses and embraces the knowledge economy and virtual skills of people to generate revenue and ultimately create wealth.

The idea of an economy that is not centred on bricks and mortar, buildings or manual trades strikes me as being real common sense.  It also begs the question - are you lowering or increasing your weight as a part of the economy?

Am I right - let's wait and see.  In the meantime here a few websites I found that focus on the aformentioned concept -


Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Musings on Making Meetings Effective

Some thoughts:

  1. Have an agenda.  To make the most of your time you and everyone else need to know what you are talking about, why you are talking about it and keep it moving.
  2. Move quickly through items that are of no consequence.  Keep the main thing as the main thing.  Allow time to discuss the big items and those things that require more indepth discussion.
  3. Set up working groups.  If an item can be discussed at a different time or if the meeting group don't all need to be involved - then establish a working group.  Findings and resolutions can then be fed back to the main group.
  4. If there are follow up actions - remind people.  It is good to turn up to a meeting knowing that actions required from the last meeting have been finished off.  Starting a meeting empowered is the best way to finish as well.
  5. Start the clock.  Record how much time you spend on each of the agenda items and reflect on which agenda items actually add value and which ones don't.  Then work on reducing or removing those items from future meetings if they aren't required.

6 Thinking Hats & Instructional Design

One of the great tools that we as managers can use when analysing different situations and scenarios.  This method was designed and created by Dr Edward de Bono.

If you look through the slides you will see how it worls and the general headings for the various methods of thinking.

Here's my recommendation - make small reminder cards.  Take these with you in your wallet or in your briefcase and then whip them out the next time you are sitting in a meeting or working on a project and things aren't progressing.

Try it out with your team too.  Try working on a project or problem area and use the six hats thinking to create new ideas and ways of moving forward.

Interestingly my daughter is also studying these different thinking strategies at the age of 9 years old.  So if she is able to harness these thinking patterns at a young age she will be well equipped in later life to look at problems in a different way than others do.

(Thanks to @tabitharoder for sourcing the powerpoint too).

Friday, March 4, 2011

Creating and Leveraging Networks

When you have a project or an issue in front of you that you don't know how/where to start on - what's your approach?

I like to think in terms of sets of people. 

  1. People I work closely with.  This is usually the first place we start.  We look at the people around us, ask a question across the room or throw an idea out there for a response.
  2. People I know in the organisation.  Not in my direct team but people
  3. People spread more widely in the organisation.
  4. People I know outside the organisation.
  5. People I don't know at all.  This is the best bit.  By belonging to groups and asociations you can gain access to people's contacts and details with ease.  One great example of this is LinkedIn and another is Twitter.  With LinkedIn you can look at your friends friends and try and source an answer that way.  The other more informal network I use is Twitter.  What you can do is tweet a question, hash-tag (#) a particular word for emphasis and see what the Twitter universe throws back at you in the way of an answer.

I love throwing out emails to random people whom I have never met and have no idea about who they are or what they do.  Sometimes the results can be simply amazing.



Wednesday, March 2, 2011


Of the 60+ meetings per month attended by professionals, research indicates that over 50 percent of this meeting time is wasted.
That translates to 4 days of lost productivity per professional every month if each meeting is one hour long!
Can you afford not to invest in more effective meetings?
Do the math for yourself. How much could you save with even a 25% improvement in the productivity of your virtual and in-person meetings?
(Original post:

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

What are you looking at?

Do you lead forwards...

Or backwards...

Some managers enjoy having reports that quite clearly state where the company has already been.  They pour themselves into how the financials are performing for the past quarter.  They love seeing statistics appear in front of their eyes that tell them where they have come from and where they have been,

The rear view mirror exists to enable you to be aware of what is behind you and serves as a reminder of where you have come from.

I prefer to manage by having reports that look forwards.  Have you ever noticed that the windscreen is always at least 20x bigger than the rear view mirror?  When you drive where is your attention focussed?

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