Planning

Turning “Weaknesses” into “Strengths”

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strengthWhile reading the latest Malcolm Gladwell book, David & Goliath, I couldn’t help but think about how many of the concepts presented also applied to business. The most interesting lesson that emerged for me was that strengths and weakness are all relative. In other words, when viewing through the same lenses, most will agree as to what are the strengths and what are the weaknesses. However, when assessing from differing perspectives a variety of outcomes can emerge. This is why having a diversity of opinion in problem solving and planning is so important.

This was most profoundly demonstrated in the book when Gladwell recounted his understanding of the famous David & Goliath story from biblical times. Goliath was supposedly this larger than life warrior, with a massive sword and shield while David was a mere shepherd boy with a sling shot. When looking at it relative to typical warfare for those times, David didn’t stand a chance. However as Gladwell describes, it was really Goliath who didn’t stand the chance. David was nimble and fast, remaining at a distance, while Goliath could hardly move; weighed down by the heavy protective armor he was wearing. As for weapons of choice, supposedly the slight shot in the hands of an expert could dispense a rock with a similar velocity as a modern day gun. So who really had the advantage?

Similarly within our organizations, it’s also critically important that we assess the needs relative to the people you have and whether their skills and abilities are being truly optimized. In a previous blog I spoke about how people have a tendency of viewing their own training needs in terms of technical skills but, for somebody else, it’s often thought of in terms of so called “soft” skills.

And so when we look at our teams and assess what might be their strengths and weaknesses, be careful of what you are comparing to. More importantly, be mindful of popular business “myths” and don’t be afraid to challenge them; just because it was a weakness in the past could make it the strength for the future, when viewed through different lenses.

Lessons from a Marathon Run

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runningOn Apr 18th I had the honor of running in the 120th Boston Marathon. This was my first and perhaps my last, but nonetheless, it was a unique experience that one can garner many life lessons from. For most the idea of even running 26.2 miles seems ridiculous and, truthfully, that was my sentiment 6 months before the race. Then circumstances collided and the opportunity to cross something off the “might never happen” bucket list came to fruition. Interestingly, in doing this there was a sequence of events that emerged unwittingly which could be assigned to any project being undertaken, whether personally or professionally. These involved the following:

1. Plan – I had 4 months to prepare for something I had never done before but at least I had the consolation of knowing that many others had successfully mastered it. Through research and speaking with other experienced runners I came up with a plan that was reasonable and provided the necessary confidence that I could do this.

2. Practice – whenever we encounter something new, we have to start slowly and allow both the body and the mind to adjust and get used to this different regime. By following a plan and building incrementally along the way, everything progressed well.

3. Setbacks – in pushing my body to new limits, there was no knowing how it might respond and, it did. Only four weeks into my training regime, I pulled a muscle in my calf. Training stopped and in order to get back on track I had to do somethings that was less than ideal in preparing for a marathon – rest. Doubt began to set in as I required 3 weeks to pass before I could continue the training regime. But I dealt with the setback, got back into training and everything else proceeded according to plan.

4. Execution – eventually the big day arrived upon which the previous 4 months efforts would all be judged. How would my body react, what would be going through my mind and, most of all, will I be able to finish the 26.2 mile course? It all started very well.

5. Completion – no matter what, I was determined to finish. I had gone through 18 miles of the race when my calves began to cramp up (that setback again!!). The more I ran the more they hurt, and I still had 8 miles to go. In my mind I concluded that without compromising my health, I could still walk 8 miles in 2 hours and finish the race in less than 5. While many ran passed me during this time, I persevered and finished in 4 hours and 54 minutes.

So what’s your marathon? What do you wish to achieve but haven’t started? Inevitably, you most likely will find yourself going through a similar process to what I did; and it worked!

Turning “Weaknesses” into “Strengths”

by necoaching necoaching No Comments

While reading the latest Malcolm Gladwell book, David & Goliath, I couldn’t help but think about how many of the concepts presented also applied to business.  The most interesting lesson that emerged for me was that strengths and weakness are all relative.  In other words, when viewing through the same lenses, most will agree as to what are the strengths and what are the weaknesses.  However, when assessing from differing perspectives a variety of outcomes can emerge. This is why having a diversity of opinion in problem solving and planning is so important.

david vs goliath This was most profoundly demonstrated in the book when Gladwell recounted his understanding of the famous David & Goliath story from biblical times.  Goliath was supposedly this larger than life warrior, with a massive sword and shield while David was a mere shepherd boy with a sling shot.  When looking at it relative to typical warfare for those times, David didn’t stand a chance.  However as Gladwell describes, it was really Goliath who didn’t stand the chance.  David was nimble and fast, remaining at a distance, while Goliath could hardly move; weighed down by the heavy protective armor he was wearing.  As for weapons of choice, supposedly the slight shot in the hands of an expert could dispense a rock with a similar velocity as a modern day gun.   So who really had the advantage?

At a time when we mourn the passing of Nelson Mandela, one can’t help that but think that he too was like a modern day David up against the might of the Goliath like apartheid government.  And when released from prison he demonstrated all the leadership qualities (respect, dignity, humility, inclusion, etc) that were the very antithesis of the supposedly “strong” government at the time.  And we all now know what happened there.

And so when we look at our respective business models and assess what might be one’s strengths and weaknesses, be careful of what you are comparing to.  More importantly, be mindful of popular business “myths” and don’t be afraid to challenge; just because it was a weakness in the past could make it the strength for the future.

The Past, Present and Future

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Have you read the book by Spencer Johnson, called The Present? Though short and a rather simple read, it contains a powerful and somewhat liberating message. He proposed that we should literally, “Learn from the Past, Live in the Present and Plan for the Future.” Though there are many ways of assessing how these might translate to our roles as entrepreneurs and business leaders, let’s briefly look at each lesson and see what we can garner.

Learn from the Past (Knowledge)

We cannot drive looking through the rear view mirror. However we can grow from our mistakes and build on our successes. In other words, past experiences do not guarantee success but the knowledge we gain can have a huge impact.

  • What significant lessons have you learned from your mistakes and those of others?
  • What has worked well and been successful for you?

Live in the Present (Energy)

The current moment is where you can derive the mental fortitude to continue working hard whether it’s through the taste of success, the fun of competing or simply the exhilaration of being part of something bigger. In addition viewing things with optimism will ensure that the energy is present to be that driving force.

  • Where do you add the greatest value to the business?
  • What about your work positively energizes you?

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The Entrepreneurial Dilemma – Prioritization

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For most people starting out in business, there are so many facets to consider. Clichés like “It’s more important to work on the business rather than in the Business” or “If you fail to plan, you plan to fail” are very often heard but not acted upon. Typically the reason for this is lack of time. However it might be more correctly suggested that it’s not time that is the issue but lack of priorities.

So what are a few key tips to consider when running your small business?

1. Plan – many consider this painful primarily because they do not know how to do it or simply see it as unnecessary. This process can be as simple as you want to make it and some of the fundamentals involved are:

  • Identify your time based goals (typically monthly and annually).
  • List the activities associated with achieving those goals.
  • Create a monthly scorecard to track performance to those goals.
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