Archive for October, 2010

Why teams fail.

October 27th, 2010 Kevin No comments

What is this post about?

This post is about how to make teams succeed. One way to benchmark your team’s success is by clearly knowing what to avoid. So the question is, why do teams fail?

You know why teams fail.

There are ten solid reasons:

1. no clear purpose;

2. lack of trust (in self, purpose, team, organization, etc.)

3. failure to get buy-in (or worse, disengaged workers ready to sabotage efforts);

4. leadership in doubt (not clear, inability to decide, too democratic, or too new);

5. unclear roles and responsibilities (or worse, infighting for power positions);

6. lack of follow up and accountability;

7. conflicting instructions (or worse, changing requirements);

8. weak support from the sponsor;

9. failure to connect to each person’s “what’s in it for me” (WIIFM);

10. uncertain deliverables.

That’s it. Those are 10 reasons why teams fail.

So how do I make my team succeed?

Teams succeed that monitor and conscientiously avoid the ten reasons for failure. They:

Have a clear purpose;

Build trust;

Earn buy-in;

Clarify who is in charge;

Know what everyone’s roles and responsibilities are;

Follow up with everyone and hold them accountable;

Use clear instructions;

Get strong support from their sponsor;

connect with everyone’s WIIFM; and

Deliver as promised.

Next time you want a great team effort review the 10 reasons teams fail and don’t do that.

Categories: Consulting, People Tags:

Between cause and effect remember to use your personal veto power!

October 21st, 2010 Kevin No comments

What’s this post about?

We run on autopilot. Mostly. We share automatic processing abilities with all other animals. And thank goodness! Could you imagine being responsible for growing your hair (some men can!), exchanging oxygen in your lungs, and making your cells copy themselves? Hardly.

And the point of the post is…

The point is: we have the right to escape our autopilot features. We have the technology (as do chimps, dolphins, and unicorns) to redirect urges, drives and instincts. Being mindful of this power massively improves the quality of our lives. It’s all good.

We have parts of us that let us take over automatic functions; who cares?

You should. The veto power is a very special gift and knowing about it helps to use it more often, in a conscious way. When we use it more often we can make better midterm and long term decisions. That results in healthier eating, smarter working, and wiser living.

Do you have an example?

There is a famous story of a man, Phineas Gage by name, who lost his prefrontal cortex to an iron bar in the 1800s (went right through his forehead… long story). Without it, he just couldn’t make sense anymore. Decisions went on hold, didn’t happen, and got messed up.

All because of an iron bar?

Yes. And similar things happened to folks who got a lobotomy. Lobotomies are procedures that mess with connections to and from the prefrontal cortex. Sometimes they helped people, and more often, they caused some terrible problems, so the US banned them. Remember One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

Back to the veto power, how does it work?

Our prefrontal cortex lets us veto automatic functions consciously and does so unconsciously too (you know, like getting angry when a driver cuts you off, or wanting to say something inappropriate at a boring meeting; sometimes things happens, sometimes they don’t). We get emotional signals in keeping with our senses and past experiences and then our prefrontal cortex sorts what it means in nanoseconds. Mostly, this part of our brain says “no” to urges.

Does the veto power ever go positive (with a yes) instead of negative (with a no)?

Of course. As a matter of fact, if we use the prefrontal cortex consciously we can train it to say “yes” more often. For example, it can veto procrastination urges or anxiety inducing fears that hold us back by gifting us with a “Yes!” instead of a “no.” The power of vetoing automatic habits helps us pursue new and helpful ways of doing things.

You suggest being conscious of our veto power then, is that it?

That’s exactly right. Being conscious of our right to veto our almost decided actions (either in favor of or against those actions) is a powerful way to get things done well.

And we can veto things that drive us crazy?

Absolutely. Between cause and effect lives the power to choose. And that power resides in the prefrontal cortex. When it comes to our urges, instincts and intents, we choose to accept or reject them with our veto power. So next time you sense an automatic set of actions coming on, consciously consider your veto power. It can make all the difference.

Try it out; let me know how it goes.

Categories: Brain power, People Tags:

Need solutions? Create new habits.

October 12th, 2010 Kevin No comments

If you keep doing what you’re doing what will you keep getting?

More of the same.

If you try something new, then what can happen?

Then there is a good chance something new will happen.

Isn’t it hard to change what you’ve been doing?

Sure it is.

And that’s because old habits are hard to change?


What about the new habits, are they hard to make?

No, not really. New habits are fun to start if you have a reason for them.

So if you want something new to happen, just create a new habit for it?

Yes, as long as you have a reason for the new habit that makes sense.

Hey: what’s the point of this post, anyway?

It turns out that to get new things to happen we often must change what we have been doing. That means we usually will have to move on from the old habits that helped us get things to happen in the first place. In other words, we have to move on from the old habits to get the new things to happen, and usually, that will take a lot of energy.

Is that because moving on from old habits is real hard?

Exactly. So, instead of focusing on the old habit and stopping it or moving away from it, do something else instead.

Okay smarty pants, what do you suggest?

I suggest creating a new habit that will help you get the new thing you want. For example, start a new habit that will become a solution to an existing problem you have. Because your problem arose due in part to your old habits, a solution for that problem will require some new things, including new habits.

Are you suggesting I create new habits to solve existing problems?

Exactly. Go ahead and create new habits to solve your old problems. That way, you’ll have no need to get rid of the old habits that got you into the problem in the first place. Simply move on from the old habits and the problems they caused by focusing more of your attention on the new habit instead.

That’s it?

Yes, that’s all there is to it. Let me know how it goes.

Categories: Brain power, Consulting Tags:

Teaching and learning

October 10th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Who learns the most in a class room?

Interesting question… depending on how many senses he or she uses, the answer will often be the teacher. Teachers stand to learn the most because learning is highly connected to the amount of senses we use during the learning process. Teachers prepare, hear, see, feel and generally, experience more things during class than any other person in the class. So, they stand a strong chance of learning the most.

Is there a correlation between what teachers teach and what students learn?

Yes. Because of our faulty memories among other things, student ability to retain what teachers teach falls to about 20% of content beyond a few weeks (often, beyond a few days). It can be considerably lower depending on the focus ability of the student. This is why “repetition is the mother of learning,” and why immediately getting to “apply what we learn” is king.

Are there ways to increase the ability of students to learn?

Some ways involve listening to 60-beat per minute Baroque music (what were composers smoking to tap into that?), meditating to calm brain waves down prior to learning, learning in bursts and chunks, encouraging particular advantageous states of mind during a learning moment, applying the learning immediately with various exercises, and in more sophisticated learning programs, teaching to each individual’s unique learning style.

Any final thoughts about learning and teaching?

It is much easier to learn new things by connecting the new learning to things we already know. In fact, if we cannot make a connection between the new learning and a prior learning, our instinct is to reject the new learning outright. This is why learning new things is often hard stuff to do.

So, what can I do about that?

Next time you have the chance to teach anyone anything, remember to help connect what the person already knows with the new things he or she is learning. That effort should result in a higher retention/learning experience for them.

Good luck, let me know how it goes.

Categories: Learning Tags:


October 5th, 2010 Kevin No comments

Have you heard of WIIFM?

It stands for “what’s in it for me.” It is a sentiment that is very common in our work places. I find WIIFM to be the number one reason why teams have such a hard time with motivation, purpose, outcome, and results.

Do you have a better solution?

Yes. Next time you have team work to do, think WIIFU instead!

What the heck does WIIFU stand for?

“What’s in it for us.”

You want more WIIFU and less WIIFM?


But what’s in it for me if I do that?

Argh. Herein lies the problem with all ideas that require some movement from common practice and behaviors, or even, some self-sacrifice on the front end.

Well show me how WIIFU is practical?

OK, do me a favor first. Reflect back on a team effort that went well for you.

Got that memory in mind?

How much time did you spend thinking about what was in it for you when you were performing your role as a teammate in that memory? Not much I bet. So, your answer gives you some basis to understand the practical implication of WIIFU over WIIFM.

Say some more?

It turns out that when we are in great team moments we think more about WIIFU and less about WIIFM. We sense WIIFM will come, so we focus on WIIFU instead of WIIFM. That’s the key; it is the secret to a great team performance by each one of us.

Next time you want a great team outcome think more WIIFU and less WIIFM!

Categories: People Tags: