A “Bone Yard” of Mistakes

I was visiting a sawmill recently and we passed a “bone yard” filled with abandoned equipment.

The owner glibly pointed it out: “That’s where we store our mistakes.”

Now, mind you, this plant was filled with innovations. Cool saw lines with great flows that seemed to get the very best out of the log. By all appearances, they were very successful. And, they had a bone yard of failures.

No one likes to fail but the fear of failure frequently keeps people from success. Somewhere along the way, we learn failure causes setbacks and, rather than risk it and suffer from it, we avoid risk. And, the outcome is we don’t learn anything new, we don’t discover anything new and we don’t accomplish anything new. We stay safe and drift to mediocrity.

Dr. Keith Simonton at the University of California-Davis studied creative geniuses from Edison to Mozart. His discovery: Creative geniuses fail more often than the rest of us.

They embrace failure because it teaches them stuff.

They take risks because each risk is a step toward success.

They understand the process of success can feature steps backwards. They minimize the impact of steps back by confidently taking another step the next day. In the end, creative folks believe that a positive result is just around the corner.

I’m all for prudence. It’s wise to consider risks before acting. But, I also believe in “happening to the world.” Our team is smart enough and resourceful enough to rebound from setbacks.

Be a little braver. Remember getting great results may result in a bone yard of mistakes.

Is Your Team a Helping Team?

Harvard professor J. Richard Hackman studied teams and said the strongest predictor in team effectiveness is based on the helpfulness team members display toward each other.

Not talent. Not skill. Help.

I was reflecting upon that insight and thinking about the culture of a team that helps each other.

  1. Members are willing to be vulnerable. It takes a certain vulnerability to say to a teammate, “I am having trouble over here, can you help me?” It is also risky business to say to someone, “You look like you could use a hand. Can I help?”
  2. Members are willing to be unselfish. Helping takes time. If the mindset is, “I’ll take care of mine and she can take care of hers,” the team will be weaker. The best teams work hard to raise the level of competence and performance in all phases of the game.
  3. Members will be humble. We are taught to have answers, not ask questions. We are taught to seek a better grade than the one sitting next to us. But, it doesn’t take long to learn that when you can put competition aside and work jointly on issues, better ideas and solutions arise. Humility says that there are probably better ideas than mine most of the time, and I am going to find out what those ideas are.
  4. Members are generous. If you trust your teammates, you will share freely with your teammates. You put aside self interest. You share what you know. You give your time, talent and treasure.

I was riding along with a colleague yesterday and asked him whether working for our company was as good as he thought it would be. I was pleased when he said: “Better.” He continued: “I can’t believe how much I enjoy the people I get to work with every day. They help. They are willing to do anything you ask.”

We have hundreds of teams in our organization. If your team isn’t a helping team, can I ask you to lead where you stand? Lend a helping hand. Make a difference by seeking the best idea. Put your interests aside for the sake of your team. It will make us a “better” team. It will also add to your joy at work.

Self-Nomination is a Winning Strategy

Do you have skills we don’t use but could use?

Do you get to do what you’re best at doing at work?

Uncovering the talents and skills of every person is a huge challenge for every enterprise. I’m sure we could be better at it.

But, something I count on to help accomplish learning about the depth of our team is a practice called “self-nomination.”

If you are “happening to the world,” you will have the courage to communicate your desires about opportunities to those who are in a position to help you.

When we hire, we focus on filling a spot. You may bring in special skills acquired other places but our interest is in filling the job at hand.

Thus, it’s possible to get stuck.

As you learn and observe what we do in our plants, you may notice something that interests you. If that is the case, take that initiative. Tell your boss, “I think I would be good at that job. How can we find out?”

I hope that you will be rewarded by asking. That your question will cause us to explore your abilities more. That our effort to explore will open up an opportunity to discover if there is ability we didn’t know about.

I see such exploration as a “win-win.” Self-nomination is a winning strategy.

Are Your Meetings Good?

Are the meetings you are required to attend effective? Do you enjoy them?

I heard a great list of what’s included in a great meeting:

Meet to evaluate. Every meeting should include time to evaluate how the team is performing. Not only should results and outcomes be reported, but the team should spend time reflecting upon the performance. Satisfied with results? Where are we falling short?

If there is good evaluation, it will lead to problem solving and action planning to improve. This step aids purpose. It can be the largest determining factor in whether people think the meeting is worth attending.

Every meeting has a “what’s next” element. Some folks plan well but don’t make it clear on who is doing what and when. A great meeting ends with every person knowing what is expected.

Finally, you learn at a good meeting. When there’s nothing new or learned at a meeting, leaders have failed in the planning. Leaders must consider in advance what’s going to happen where new learning can take place.

Are your meetings good? Use this list to consider why you answer the way you do.

Give, Grow, Love and Win

Ran across this quote today:

“Give, grow, love and win.”

Comes from girls’ basketball coach Chad Hibdon from Murfreesboro, TN, who was selected by USA Today as high school coach of the year.

Coaches work to establish a culture. They want their team to operate in a certain way. If they can find a short phrase to describe the culture for the players, it goes a long way toward helping that culture become a reality.

Hibdon’s phrase could serve almost any team well.

“Give” puts a premium on selflessness. It creates alertness for others. It places a focus on the team. If you are concentrating on “giving” you aren’t worried about “getting.” To give is to promote generosity of spirit and action that causes teams to thrive.

“Grow” places a premium on improving. You grow by intention at practice. You grow by striving to learn more. You grow by acquiring and refining your skill. You grow by having a curious mind. You grow by extending yourself to new limits. You grow by learning from mistakes and setbacks.

“Love” is an action verb that deepens relationships in strong cultures. In the Bible, it says love is patient, kind, humble, persistent, enduring, thick skinned, faithful, hopeful. It says love never fails. A team that loves, endures.

“Win” places value on competitive nature. It acknowledges the truth that there are winners and those that don’t win. It highlights the idea that there are standards to strive to attain. It underscores that in life’s activities, there is a goal or a target and striving to win is better than not striving at all.

“Give, grow, love and win.” I think it’s a pretty good way to roll.

Live Life With Purpose

I was reading in the paper today about a woman who is a runner. Her story is that she had run for exercise for years. One of her sons asked her if she was running just to run or running with a goal in mind.

She said the question was a “wake up” for her. She realized that she went through the motions. And, since it was exercise and recreation for her, it was OK to approach running in that fashion. She wondered what would happen if she tried it with goals in mind.

For the first time, she began to time herself. She learned that she averaged over nine minutes a mile. When she began to run with a clock and pay attention to her progress, she found it gave new life to her workout. It invigorated her. Made it more interesting than in years past.

She began to try on new techniques. She began to give herself challenges. She found herself picking up the pace. The satisfaction she experienced at the end of the run was magnified.

Her story reminds me of a scripture in the Bible. Written by Paul, 1 Corinthians 9:24-26: “Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but only one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may win. Therefore, I run in such a way as not without aim; I box in such a way as not beating the air.”

You can live life with purpose. You can live without it. As for me, I find one with intention and purpose to be better. I think you will too!

Confidence, Optimism and Courage

Many of you have heard of financial guru Dave Ramsey. He has become famous teaching people how to change the direction of their financial lives.

I heard a talk he gave about those who do well financially versus those who do poorly.

He made an observation I would like to share. He said that people who are doing poorly are:

  • Seldom excited about anything
  • Seldom optimistic
  • Frequently scared

I was reflecting upon those characteristics as it relates to my goal of having PalletOne people “happen to the world.”

To happen to the world, you must be frequently excited. The excitement comes because you know what you do matters. You can be excited because you know you have the ability to make a difference. You can be excited because you find yourself immersed in projects which are creating positive change.

To happen to the world, you must be optimistic. You can be optimistic because you have a record of achievement. You know that when you focus on something, it gets better. So, the question is focus. You focus, things get better. Having the confidence to know your persistent effort causes positive change creates a bias for action.

Finally, to happen to the world, you must be brave. Brave enough to try new things. Brave enough to confront shortcomings. Brave enough to put aside thoughts about risk and to focus on hard work and effort that yields results.

The outcome of “happening to the world” is confidence, optimism and courage. That’s the way to improve.

Make Question Asking a Habit

I heard about a woman who had several children in elementary school. She asked them daily, “How was school today?” and was frustrated with the lack of response which school kids mutter.

She got better results with a different approach. She began to ask them, “What questions did you ask today?”

I had a class once where the teacher emphasized the importance of questions. It was a class about leadership and business success. He described several strategies of the successful. He said that successful listeners focus on asking questions rather than giving answers.

If you think about it, it makes sense. Early in school we are trained to give answers. The more you answer, the more praise you receive. Answers get you an “A” and an “atta girl.” That’s how you get ahead.

But, if you are giving answers, you’re talking. If you’re talking, you’re not listening. If you’re not listening, you can’t be learning.

The teacher made this point: “We all know what we know. Many times the breakthroughs in business and problem solving don’t come from what is known, but what is unknown. People who ask good questions bring the unknown to life.”

When I interview people or give them a tour, I pay attention to the questions the candidate asks. The deeper the question, the more she reveals what she knows. The more frequent the questions, the more they demonstrate their zest for learning. The better each question that follows, the more they prove they assimilate new information and listen well.

Conventional wisdom says give answers. Extraordinary wisdom says make question asking a habit.

So you didn’t go to school today, but you did enter the “learning lab” we call work. What questions did you ask today?

This is Not a “Practice Life”

A friend of mine, Brett Trapp, tweeted this thought: “This is not your practice life.”

Does the statement cause you to reflect?

Certainly, the idea of a “practice life” when it comes to learning from experience is sound. Trying different strategies and experimenting with new behavior can result in mistakes and errors. Failure isn’t fatal. Learning from experience is a key way to a richer life.

I think this statement attacks procrastination and “going through the motions.” It has as a primary value the concept that time is the same resource for everyone and it flees.

There are things that we know we should do but fail to do. You can make a list. Experts call it the “knowing-doing gap.”

What’s important about the “knowing-doing gap” is that the theory says that most of us know what we need to do to have a better life. We just put off doing it.

It’s a simple thought but it is complex to do. We have many distractions. We have many temptations. We have many excuses.

But my friend’s statement brings it to a point. The theory of the “knowing-doing gap” says that all of us have a readymade agenda to improve life inside of us. Stuff we know we should do. Stuff that, if we did them, would cause things to become better around us.

The idea that this is not “a practice life” says that there isn’t time to waste. What are you waiting for? Get to work on the “gap.”

Intend Instead of Drifting

No one drifts into excellence.

I was listening to a sermon by Bill Hybels. The actual quote was, “No one drifts into holiness.” Holiness is a state that faithful religious followers seek. For God seekers, to be holy is better than being unholy. Hybels is stating that you won’t drift into the desired condition. Our nature is to drift away. You want to be holy, you have to intend it.

It caused me to think about how drifting works against everything good and meaningful.

You don’t drift into a good marriage.

You don’t drift into being an effective parent.

You don’t drift into good physical condition.

You don’t drift into safety.

You don’t drift into quality relationships.

Automatic pilot is the enemy to excellence. At home, at work and at play.

Go to automatic pilot in how you pursue life, you assure your results will get worse. Mediocrity or worse is on its way.

Don’t trust drift. Trust intention.


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