Thursday, April 30, 2009

Finding Your "One Thing"

In the movie City Slickers, a group of friends take a “vacation” at a dude ranch. Curley, played by Jack Palance, is a crusty yet wise old cowboy who shares the following with Mitch, played by Billy Crystal:

Do you know what the secret of life is?

No, what?

This. (Holds up his index finger.)

Your finger?

One thing. Just one thing. You stick to that and everything else don’t mean [anything].

That’s great, but what’s the one thing?

That’s what you’ve got to figure out!

Great scene … great advice. Leaders have to figure out the One Thing that defines a meaningful purpose for their teams. The One Thing should answer the question Why are we here? You may think that finding that focus isn’t critical; but in fact, it’s essential to your success. The most important thing in business (and life) is deciding what is most important.

Your team’s One Thing might be: producing defect-free materials; providing the fastest service available; developing leading-edge products; creating relationships that customers cannot walk away from; or meeting the technology needs of other departments. These are just examples – your One Thing has to be your One Thing. And it should guide all of your decisions and actions.

Even after you find your One Thing, sticking to it can be a challenge while you put out fires and explore new opportunities. Don’t be tempted to think, as some do, that you can keep piling on initiatives and still maintain your team’s focus. You may find yourself in the middle of the “Ship is Adrift” Syndrome. Instead, consider automating, streamlining or outsourcing areas that are not core to your team’s operation.

A laser-sharp focus does not happen overnight. It takes time and effort to refine, reinforce, and communicate your One Thing. But you need to start now. Blurred focus creates confusion – resulting in diffused employee efforts.

Stay focused! Remember Curley!

Today’s solution is from Sticking To It: The Art of Adherence By Lee J. Colan

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Applying a Four-Step Process for Difficult Conversations

By Cheryl Eckl at


For the purposes of this article, please consider the case of Darren and Andy: When Darren was promoted to head up another department, the managers already in place warned him about their colleague Andy’s negative behavior. He was habitually late for meetings, always critical of others’ ideas, unwilling to help solve even the simplest problems and became very hostile when asked to participate. Furthermore, he was always the last to arrive in the morning and took every opportunity to leave early.

The previous manager had tolerated Andy’s behavior because he felt Andy was smart, quick and could be relied upon to complete his assignments. Darren, however, assessed that Andy was probably more capable than his record would indicate, and felt the team’s performance could benefit from getting Andy more engaged in the work. Unfortunately, Darren’s intense dislike of confrontation made it difficult for him to address the issues with Andy personally. Darren’s issues with confrontation aren’t unusual.

Many interpersonal problems stem simply from one’s inability to conduct difficult conversations. Often people are willing—even desperate—to face situations assertively, but they don’t know how. Consequently, they don’t say what they mean, misunderstandings occur and critical information goes unspoken until disclosure is forced out by inevitable disaster. This failure to confront negative behavior also damages group morale, drives out talent and lowers innovation and productivity.

The DESC Process

To address his aversion to confrontation, Darren prepared for the conversation with Andy by
Applying the “DESC” model (Describe, Express, Specify, Consequences). This four-step process helped Darren plan what he would say without becoming emotional, enabling him to practice saying it calmly and allowing for escalation if Andy were to respond negatively.

When first introduced to the DESC (pronounced “desk”) process, Darren was concerned that writing a “script” would make him sound stilted or insincere, but as he used suggestive key words (as detailed below) and he realized that being able to articulate his thoughts and feelings in advance of the conversation created a framework that helped him become effectively assertive.

The Four Steps of DESC Scripting

Step 1: Describe (Key Word: “When”)

The first step in creating a DESC script is describing the problematic behavior while avoiding judgmental or opinionated statements that could make the other person defensive. Begin the “Describe” phase with “When” and state a single behavior in as few words as possible. As Darren discovered, creating a factual statement isn’t easy. His first attempt—“Your hostility and negativity are demoralizing!”—would only trigger an emotional response. Instead, Darren rephrased: “When you’re not engaged…”

Step 2: Express (Key Words: “I feel”)

When stating how you feel about a situation, avoid “you make me feel” statements in favor of “I feel.” Being effectively assertive means you can choose your reactions, even if others are being unreasonable. The goal is to keep the conversation factual and calm by describing feelings rather than acting them out. Be specific: “I’m angry, I’m worried, I’m annoyed.” Darren had to examine his motivation for confronting Andy and reframe his negative emotions into a positive statement: “I feel disappointed because I believe you’re capable of doing more, if you
chose to.”

Step 3: Specify (Key Words: “What would work for me”)

This third step is designed to help articulate the desired new behavior while avoiding blame, judgment or condescension. The key here is to ask for a positive change, not a negative one. For example: “Please try to be more open to the opinions of others” is more powerful than “Stop being so critical!” Darren’s choice was confident and straightforward: “I must insist that you engage more with the team. What would work for me is if you and I explore where and how your strengths can fit better within the team structure.”

Step 4: Consequences (Key Words: “If…then; if not”)

Here, the goal is to demonstrate why it’s in the other person’s best interest to change their behavior. If the behavior doesn’t change or the conversation is disciplinary, then use the negative consequence. If you do introduce the negative, be sure you’re prepared to carry it out or you’ll lose credibility. Darren concluded the script with: “If you will work with me on this, then I am confident that both you and the team will benefit. If not, I will be forced to request your transfer.”

The Results

In his meeting with Andy, Darren delivered his DESC script calmly. Andy was stunned. No manager had ever confronted him with such clear demands coupled with a sincere interest in helping him improve. Andy asked to meet with Darren again after he’d had a chance to consider Darren’s offer. They did so two days later with encouraging results. Andy’s behavior didn’t change overnight, but Darren’s effectively assertive DESC script turned a “difficult conversation” into a more productive partnership.

About the Author
Cheryl Eckl is a facilitator, speaker and personal coach who works with
individuals and teams to achieve creative solutions for both interpersonal
and business problems. She is the author of Learning Tree’s Course 244
“Assertiveness Skills,” and Course 904, “Responding to Conflict.”

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Live Your Dash

The Dash is a book based on Linda Ellis’ poem, (by the same name).

If you’ve never seen The Dash movie before, you’re in for a treat. If you have, please take a moment to remember how much that little line is worth.

To view the movie, simply click on the following link:

To your success,

W. D. Cravenor

Content provided by

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

212 Degrees of Attitude, Belief and Perseverance

Most of us are feeling the squeeze of the economy, and have been for quite some time. But, take heart; I have a number that may bring you some inspiration. 212.

The phenomenon that takes place when the temperature of water goes from 211° to 212° reminds us that seemingly small things can make tremendous differences.

In this current economic climate, now is the time to take advantage of each and every opportunity. Now is the time to stretch beyond your comfort zone. Now is the time to go the extra degree.

To inspire you to go the extra degree, I’m sharing with you our 212° the extra degree movie along with a story about one man who, during difficult circumstances, made every moment count. Please pass this along to others so that they, too, will be inspired.

View the following movie short at this link:

Provided by Eric Harvey at

Monday, April 6, 2009

Something to Think About

Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first. -- Ernestine Ulmer

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Hiring the Best

If staffing is one of your leadership responsibilities, you undoubtedly know that hiring “the right people” can be tough and tedious work. But it’s also important work – arguably the most important function you will ever perform.

With few exceptions, the more effort you put into the hiring process, the less you need to devote to managing the performance of the people you bring on. As the old saying goes: You can pay in the beginning, or you can pay in the end … with interest. So, what can you do to help ensure you hire the best people for each available job? Here are a few suggestions that could help:

1. Draw a line in the dirt! Refuse to hire individuals who haven’t behaviorally demonstrated a commitment to values such as integrity, responsibility, respect, etc. Don’t fall into the “belief trap” – believing (or hoping) that you can train for these characteristics at a later date. It rarely happens.

2. Hire people for who they are. One of the biggest mistakes most employers make is to value previous work experience above all else. In today’s rapidly changing world, however, experience often represents “how it used to be done.” When evaluating candidates, look for traits like hard-working, good team player, dependable, honest, etc. – rather than just an inventory of skills they acquired in previous employment.

3. Hire for tomorrow’s job. Don’t just hire for a position, hire for the future. Jobs, technologies, and markets are changing faster than ever. Look for people who are intelligent, quick learners, and adaptable to change.

4. Bring on people who are different from you. You don’t need anyone else to think what you think and do what you do. You’re already there! Look for fresh and different people who will bring fresh and different ideas. Hire for diversity.

Today’s lesson is from Leadership Courage By David Cottrell and Eric Harvey
For more information on this resource and other high-impact WALK THE TALK publications, please click here to learn more.

Quote of the Day

Gratitude is like a flashlight. If you go out in your yard at night and turn on a flashlight, you suddenly can see what's there. It was always there, but you couldn’t see it in the dark.
-- Dawna Markova