Connecting The Dots

Discussing the threads of my own passions which have culminated in my work as coach, mentor, presenter in my own business.

Structured Procrastination

Mary Johnson - Friday, May 29, 2015

Time management. Getting organized. Have a system. Oh I try, and try, and it's just not something I have ever been able to maintain. Now don't get me wrong. I get things done. Especially things near and dear to my heart. Can be quite fierce about it in fact. Still I've never 'flown' straight on this time management thing. 

Then a number of years ago a fellow I worked with shared a concept he came across called Structured Procrastination. Structured procrastination you say?! What on the earth is that? Well for we less than linear folks, give us or decide on a top priority. Like writing a book; a time sensitive goal. Lay out a loose framework. Even better add in a firm timeline. While this top priority is percolating, you will find yourself attending to all manner of other things (ah the satisfaction of striking things off a list!!). 

For those more methodical, you will look messy and not on task. Understand that your priority has been seeded in your mind's eye. At the right time (and those of us that live this 'know' the 'right time') you will ride a creative wave of energy to get done what you had originally set out to do. MBTI folks call it having a 'pressure prompt'. The doing can't be forced before you're ready. I know because I've tried. Ended up redoing at the last minute anyway. The trick is to know this about yourself and to understand how to work with this distinctive ebb and flow of energy.

For those of you who want more into, there's a whole website.....

PS It's 9:50 A deadline noon today. . Gotta go!

The Pivot

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, May 13, 2015

For years I have spoken about 'Your Story' - the one you tell yourself everyday. Especially when  a circumstance has triggered a particular reaction. Smugly thought I had figured out my story in all it' splendour and murkiness! Well loving to be pleasantly surprised in life, I certainly was! 

Got ahold of Tad Hargrave's 'The Niching Spiral'. In it he walks you through a fascinating and liberating look at niching. One of the invites is to create your story line. There is 'a something' most of us in business want to offer others. It is shaped by the good/ bad things we have experienced as well as the ugly/inspiring events of our lives. I have written out my story a few times in my life - looking for clues to a variety of things. Wasn't sure what doing it again would offer. And, .... I committed to gaining some clarity on whether I was still on the right path. Righto!

The second part of this came from Jeff Goins 'The Art of Work'. Once you have written your story create a PIVOT. What else could your story be saying (to you and possibly others)? Come at your story from another angle. And another, and possibly another yet. You need to give it a bit of time. Write, walk away, lookout it some more, write again.

Surprise!!! I found 5 pivots on my story. 5! To say I was blown away would be an understatement. One of my storylines centered around my last job and the ombudsman like work I did. In fact this is the story I used to underpin my business. In my heart of hearts, there had always been something missing for me. Yet on the surface it seemed a great door into the business world. Then I saw the story of the technical frontline nurse makes her way into a senior corporate role. There is another one about not letting a life threatening illness conquer me; the spiritual seeker and my longest, strongest thread that is about health. Not peas and carrots stuff; rather how do you move past the barriers, triggers, circumstances that hold you back to become a source of contribution in the world.

Bingo! while all of the PIVOTS are true versions of my life, it's the last one that energizes me and I can speak to without hesitation. I had completely walked past this one, thinking it just a stop along my way to something bigger. To quote my grand daughter 'Silly Grandma!' Yet I might have continued to have this dropped thread without this once-more look.

What about you? Perhaps it's time to examine your story. Maybe it's run out of steam - no longer inspiring you. Write out that story of yours. Then look for what else might be there. A thread that may go back a long way. Or maybe it'll invigorate your present story. Either way don't be fooled into thinking this is all there is. Your stories will tell you otherwise.

The skill of delegation

Mary Johnson - Wednesday, April 29, 2015

You're busy, so very busy. If someone would only take some work off your desk or your lengthy to-do list at home. The reply is often 'Delegate' - give away some of that work to someone else. Of course you should and it's not so simple. I know very few naturally good delegators. A couple of recent situations reminded me of how it doesn't come easy, .....

I am helping out with a large annual social event - learning the ropes as they say. Next year will be part of a group that organizes it. The good woman doing it this year is exactly that - a good woman. While one other person has taken on one task, there are no other obvious helpers other than me. I have been given a number of things to look after. What I haven't been given is complete information or the real authority to do it. I've needed to go back a time or two and clarify. Then tended to get "I've taken care of it." Just so your know I'm a fairly capable gal who's organized a few events like this. And I realized it's not about me! It's hard to let go if you don't clarify what someone can do or possibly something is a great source of pride for you. So what's my biggest take away? (the question I like to ask my clients) To have a committee of a number of capable individuals, share the responsibilities and make sure folks have what they need to do the job. I have no desire to carry this event planning alone!

The second situation was when I was looking after my 3 year old granddaughter the other day. I asked if she'd help me unload and load the dishwasher. My sweetie-pie was all over that. Now Missy is just learning - lots of things. She does get encouragement and she gets lot of correction. I told her, then showed her, what I'd like. Away she went doing her task. Now it wasn't as I would do it. Noticed I felt myself getting twitchy wanting to remind her how Grandma does it. The question I stopped myself with was "was what she was doing going to create a problem or was it acceptable?" Go figure - it was just fine - perfectly acceptable. So I thanked her very much for being such a help. She was tickled at the praise! To think I almost took that away from her to look after my need to have it my way. It was a huge reminder that in delegating, it's about fostering someone's growth and not about my need to be right. 

The upshot for me was your work workload can be shared, lightened AND someone won't do it the way you do. Or you can do it all and perhaps feel little taken advantage of. Been there, done that - both ways. I prefer the t-shirt from the first! 



Mary Johnson - Thursday, April 23, 2015

Whack-A-Mole. Remember this game from video arcades or the Exhibition? Moles would pop out of holes and you'd have to anticipate where they would appear and then it it with a soft mallet. Those little guys would pop up and disappear faster and faster. You won a prize if you managed to knock out a certain number. 

Whacking moles still earns you a prize in business. The more fires, situations you handle, the more valuable you can appear and feel! Only thing is, it's exhausting! So it was in a conversation with a new to a role client. The issue she brought to the table was a 'conflict' between 2 staff members. Both of the individuals were cherry picking (my word) over how referrals were passed along and received. Numerous conversations between the two had taken place. Not an unusual approach, especially when you are new - cajoling people into doing their work and playing nice. In probing further, turns out this was happening between a number of other team members - routinely. Ah! that frustration she expressed at having to have so many conversations to get people on side again says she was playing Whack-a-Mole! *HINT* When an issue or situation shows up more than twice, you have a systemic problem. Do NOT be fooled by the slight variations on the theme. This is how, as in another client situation, an employee who was having difficulty kept a number of managers from addressing the larger concern. Late (numerous times), insubordinate, client, complaint, staff complaint - all different right? Wrong! Again in this case you have a systemic issue on your hands. And it need a systemic (vs a Whack-a-Mole) solution.

For my client with the referral issue, the new process is now 4 months old. The original agreements and case for the change long forgotten in the day to day work. Great opportunity to revisit. Share before and after the change data - she's got it! Focus on what's working well. Tweak if necessary. Gain recommitment. 

Feels like more time and believe me, if you roll up all those one off conversations you've been having (and would continue to have), you've just saved yourself huge time!

Brilliant viewpoint from a winning team skip

Mary Johnson - Thursday, October 09, 2014

Jennifer Jones and Mary Johnson at WXN breakfast Edmonton Had the privilege to hear Jennifer Jones, winning skip of our women's gold medal curling team, speak yesterday. The event was the WXN (Women's Executive Network breakfast meeting. Jennifer is energetic, enthusiastic and very grounded considering her commitments as a lawyer, the curling training, international travel schedule, speaking and last but not least mom to young daughter Isabella. (Phew I was feeling tired just listening!!)

Her talk focused on a number of aspects of being part of a team. Much was familiar territory. There was something though that caught my ear. There was a lot of buzz a few years back when she made a decision to let go one of the team members in favour of someone young, lots of potential but essentially untried. She spoke about making this criticized change for their future.

Then she said "Bring in someone new (to the team) and you create a whole new team. Don't ask someone to fit into the 'old' mold team. Let someone bring who they are to the dynamic."

I thought this was unique and not how we usually receive new team members. When this new member joined, the team saw themselves as a brand new team. Deliberately took time to discover who they were now in this new dynamic and drew upon the resultant cross skills and capabilities to go onto win gold in Sochi - the only women's team to do so undefeated.

She's onto something! What if we didn't look to see how a new member on a team 'fits in'. Rather look at how they make a team new. Brilliant!