Thursday, August 23, 2007

Urban Word of the Day: nano nap

This made me laugh.

Are people taking "nano naps" during your meetings or presentations?

Urban Word of the Day

August 14, 2007: nano nap

An unintentional, seconds-long nap that you take most often in class or a really boring meeting. So short that usually nobody but you notices.

I caught myself taking a nano nap on that conference call

Authenticity in the Face of Crisis

Jon Harmon, a PR Consultant with Force For Good Communcations, wrote a piece in the LA Times about the recent Utah mine tragedy and how CEO Robert Murray managed his role as the face of Murray Energy Corp.
Harmon makes an important point about effective communication in a time of crisis - that the good of genuine authenticity can often help counter the bad influence of mistakes. He writes:
The 67-year-old Murray was in Montana when he got word of the collapse at the mine owned by Murray Energy Corp. He hopped on a private jet and was at the scene within hours, taking command of the rescue operation, providing the media updates. All this was textbook PR in the best sense. The presence of the concerned chief executive on the scene of a disaster has been understood to be essential to successful crisis management since Exxon's CEO infamously took far too long to travel to Valdez, Alaska, in 1989, to take stock of the oil spill that caused one of history's worst environmental disasters.

But after that, Murray broke so many rules of crisis communications he had news anchors, on-air, asking what they'd just witnessed. From his first briefings, Murray angrily denounced the media (seldom a winning strategy) and blamed union organizers for suggesting that the dangerous practice of "retreat mining" had led to the collapse. He blasted environmentalists for their crusade against global warming, calling it an affront to the coal industry and to the American economy.

Crisis communications experts universally panned Murray's rantings as "callous," "damaging" and "not helpful" to the families of the trapped miners.

Murray also insisted that an earthquake had caused the mine collapse, then doggedly held to that theory despite seismologists' conclusions that the tremors were caused by the collapse.
These would appear to be disastrous mistakes, guaranteeing Murray a shot at The-Worst-PR-Gaffe-of-the-Year-Award. Indeed, the following paints a picture of miner's families who have lost faith in Murray:
After three rescuers were killed in a cave-in, Murray dropped out of sight, leaving a subordinate to conduct briefings. A representative for the miners' families said, "We feel Bob Murray has abandoned us." Without any explanation for his disappearance, one could only assume that he was made to understand that his abrasive style did not fit the increasingly grim mood.
In spite of all this, Murray is noted in at least one blog for his candor and refreshing authenticity.
"Despite [Murray's] occasional moments of near-insanity, I suspect he's better liked by the general public than he would be if he'd gone by the crisis communication book," David Murray (no relation) wrote on his public relations blog, Shades of Gray.

In times of crisis, spokespeople should trust in the redeeming power of being authentic. We empathize with the leader who bravely steps up in a time of peril. We readily forgive an unpolished and even shaky presentation -- as long as we feel in our hearts that the spokesperson is being truthful to us, a feeling Bob Murray has not always inspired.
We can recover from mistakes, especially honest ones. But once our credibility comes into question, once our authenticity is compromised, it is a steep uphill-climb to regain the trust of those who experience such a lapse.

PS: I did a web search to find the Murray Energy corporate website. My search string on Google was "Murray Energy Corporation." On the 10th page of search results, I gave up. The first 10 pages were almost ALL links to news stories or blog posts about the Crandall Canyon mine collapse. This reminded me of the story about Dell in my post about Radical Transparency and Authenticity.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Growth or Fixed Mind-Set?

Carol Dweck, a Psychology Professor at Stanford, has written a book titled, "MindSet." She posits that one's mindset is a greater determinant of one's ability to succeed than talent. She outlines 2 different mindsets: The Fixed Mind-Set and the Growth Mind-Set. A fixed mindset is one in which you view your talents and abilities as... well, fixed. In other words, you are who you are, your intelligence and talents are fixed, and your fate is to go through life avoiding challenge and failure. A growth mindset, on the other hand, is one in which you see yourself as fluid, a work in progress. Your fate is one of growth and opportunity.

Here's a terrific Nigel Holmes graphic that originally spar
ked my imagination. You can also find a recording of an interview with Moira Gunn and Carol Dweck here.

In this press release from Stanford, she recounts a story from the 6th grade:

When psychology Professor Carol Dweck was a sixth-grader at P.S. 153 in Brooklyn, N.Y., she experienced something that made her want to understand why some people view intelligence as a fixed trait while others embrace it as a quality that can be developed and expanded.

Dweck's teacher that year, Mrs. Wilson, seated her students around the room according to their IQ. The girls and boys who didn't have the highest IQ in the class were not allowed to carry the flag during assembly or even wash the blackboard, Dweck said. "She let it be known that IQ for her was the ultimate measure of your intelligence and your character," she said. "So the students who had the best seats were always scared of taking another test and not being at the top anymore."

Asked what seat number Dweck occupied during that memorable year, the professor paused, and silently raised her right index finger. "But it was an uncomfortable thing because you were only as good as your last test score," she said. "I think it had just as negative an effect on the kids at the top [as those at the bottom] who were defining themselves in those terms."

From that experience, Dweck became fascinated with intelligence, convinced that IQ tests are not the only way to measure it. "I also became very interested in coping with setbacks, probably because being in that classroom made me so concerned about not slipping, not failing," she said.

This idea resonated deeply for me. As a trainer, I am constantly interacting with people in a learning environment. I can clearly see behaviors in workshop participants that fall into one category or another.

Also, it parallels the Zen philosophy called Beginner's Mind. Beginner's mind is Zen practice in action. It is the mind that is innocent of preconceptions and expectations, judgments and prejudices. Beginner's mind is just present to explore and observe and see "things as-it-is."

Shunryu Suzuki-Roshi, author of Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, captured it very simply with, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert's there are few."

Think of how a child approaches life and you will inherently understand beginner's mind. It's full of curiosity and wonder and amazement. "I wonder what this is? I wonder what this means?" Without approaching things with a fixed point of view or a prior judgment, just asking "What is this? What does it mean?"

When I give feedback to workshop participants, those in Fixed (or Expert) Mindset will react by explaining or defending themselves. They feel a strong need to counter any conception that they "made a mistake" by not doing a perfect execution of the task assigned in a given exercise.

Those in Growth (or Beginner's) Mindset react with a sense of humility and confidence. They are genuinely interested in hearing how they might improve their skills. They tend to be thankful for feedback and are quickest to laugh at their own foibles.

Which mindset do you possess? Dweck provides a checklist to assess yourself and shows how a particular mindset can affect all areas of your life, from business to sports and love. The good news, says Dweck, is that mindsets are not set: at any time, you can learn to use a growth mindset to achieve success and happiness

Friday, August 10, 2007

Big Brothers Big Sisters - A Great Experience

Since the fall of 2002, I have been volunteering as a Big Brother with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Sonoma County. This has been an extremely rich and rewarding experience.

During that time, I have been matched with 2 boys. First ...
Then ...

This has been a very rewarding experience for me and very much echoes the experience described in this terrific story about Alex and Isaac.

BBBS is always looking for adults to act as mentors and friends to kids who really blossom with these kinds of friendships. I hope you will consider volunteering yourself.

You'll find the national website here where you can find out about your local chapters and how you can get involved.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Barry Bonds - The Art of Mindful Hitting

I came across this blog post about Barry Bonds today. As a long time baseball and Giants fan, this home run record chase has been an interesting story.

Robert Seidman has some interesting thoughts about the steroid "asterisk" issue and whether Bonds is a better hitter than Hank Aaron.
I assume Bonds used performance enhancers (just as I assume many if not most of his peers and the pitchers he faced), I assume the Giants management and ownership knew this, and I also assume Selig and MLB knew as well.
The way it worked out is that I have far more respect for Bonds than I do for ownership, Selig or MLB. Selig can say or do whatever, as can ownership, but at the end of the day, McGowan and Selig don't have to stare down a 91 MPH fastball.
I am a numbers guy: whether he was svelt or extra bulky, he always has had tremendous plate discipline. This year marks the 14th season (and he has not been bulky nearly that long) that Bonds drew over 100 walks. Aaron NEVER had a season with 100 walks (his best was 92).
Barry Bonds is the best hitter of my lifetime. His plate discipline, even at 43 years old is nothing short of amazing. With all the pressure of the world on him, hated by almost everyone the man uses all that to motivate him and then steps up to the plate, and delivers. On top of that he's one of the most entertaining performers to ever pick up the lumber.
If you watch the clip of #755, you'll see the ball lands near a woman who was holding up an "*"(asterisk) sign. You'll also see this same woman jumping up and down, cheering and giddy as the ball came her way.
He can even entertain and delight those who would mock him. He may well be the best there ever was.
This struck me - reading the sports page about Bonds hitting 754 to tie Aaron at Petco Park in San Diego. The crowd jeered Bonds when he stepped to the plate. After he hit the home run, they cheered and gave him a standing ovation. This is how Jeff Fletcher of the Press Democrat put it:
Although the milestone homer came at San Diego’s Petco Park, amid a sellout crowd that jeered him as he stepped to the plate, the homer was greeted by raucous cheers and a standing ovation.
In spite of all the pressure and scrutiny, he manages to stay focused and in that mindful state that I've spoken about in a previous post. Now, THAT'S a performer.