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Blog post . . . leads to sharing . . . surprising an old friend . . . and training!

Photo by  Web Hosting  on  Unsplash

Photo by Web Hosting on Unsplash

Opportunities . . . to Help . . . sometimes Come from “Strange”. . . or Rather . . . “Stranger” Places

Serendipity. I think that’s what it’s called.

It is always interesting to see how opportunities to help organizations present themselves. Often it is through a direct contact with a leader. But not always . . . sometimes it is through a blog post, and the action of a “stranger” . . . a reader, you have never met, who happens to be connected to someone in your circle . . . as it did this past summer.

Rekindling Friendship

Recently, I was sitting at a mexican restaurant in Missouri, catching up with some high school/college friends. Later, they showed me the recent damage from a tornado and flooding in their town, and I got to be in their home and meet their son. It was a great reunion of old friendship . . . and brought about through the pages of this blog. I’ll explain in a minute . . .

In my years of posting content, I regularly check the analytics to see what readers are interested in reading and how the readers “behave” when they come to the website. Many visitors click on links “About Us” and “Contact Us,” and/or download content, like our free ebooks, but only a minority actually reach out with a comment, question, or inquiry. Most, I suspect, prefer to sit back, glean what they can from the posts and that is good enough—which is fine and one of the reasons to continue posting so that people can benefit from our journey. Thus analytics, in leu of personal contact, becomes the indicator of what you, the reader, want for content in our posting. I admire those confident readers with the courage to reach out— connecting with “thought leaders” or those who have traveled “the road” before them—and I can tell you that the times that I personally have reached out to experts in areas I am interested in, I have universally “walked away” from those contacts feeling encouraged and enlightened. I personally need to do it more. Maybe I’ve just been lucky, but for those who reach out to us I want the experience to be just as helpful and inspiring.

But back to the opportunity raised through the blog post . . .

A Reader, a Coworker . . . and my Friend

So, the friend, the one that I had supper with in Missouri, has been a regular follower of our blog. He has commented at times, sent me notes through LinkedIn or Facebook, and we have stayed loosely connected through the “grapevine” of our mutual contacts, as well as occasional times we were in the same place at the same time.

None the less, I was surprised when this friend, “old friend,” contacted me asking about the possibility of HSC doing some training for the Bureau.. I use the descriptor of “old” because the most significant time we had spent together was over 30 years ago (we had gone to camp together, then junior college, and college, before our paths parting ways).

The most interesting thing to me about this opportunity was—here is where the serendipity is involved—my friend was not the one recommending HSC and promoting us to do the training! One would expect that it was a person contact, like my friend, who might recommend your services as a provider. But, although I guess our personal relationship played some role, he was not the original “spark” that lit the fire.

Serendipity . . . or . . . operating in Reverse

As my friend tells it, he received an email from his boss with one of our posts attached. The post, called “Mistakes . . . Vulnerability . . . and Developing a Good Product,” was sent to the entire division. My friend, contacted his boss and said, “How did you get this? I know the author.” It turns out that a different manager, who was also a reader of our blog had sent the blog post to the boss, suggesting it be sent out to all the employees, which included my friend, and the boss did exactly that—sent it out, prompting the inquiry from my friend. Operating in “reverse” from how opportunities usually develop.

Is this replicable? Probably not. At least not to the degree that an organizations needs to fill it’s “pipeline” of work. But it highlights one very important principle: Do things because you value helping others—not simply because it is good marketing, sales, or produces a billable hour. Recently, I had this conversation with a professional in Atlanta that I am coaching. I reminded her that it is best to focus on helping not getting a signed contract. Why? Well, first of all, you can’t make someone buy something they don’t really want. Secondly, if you are only in it to make money for yourself, then it is likely that you will be frustrated and the client will have a barrier (you) to getting help even if they really want and need it.

Case in point: I once was on a committee to purchase a electronic records system for four agencies. One vendor, had flown into Omaha for a follow up to his original presentation— essentially making the “first cut” and entering “round two",” must have gotten frustrated at not having “sold” us in the first round. During the second presentation he began to complain about having to return a second time—talking about the pressure he was feeling, the hardships of coming back for the second presentation, how his wife didn’t like it, it took him away from his family, etc. This was so off-putting—even to a room of sympathetic therapists—that his product, which going into the presentation was our number two choice, became immediately a “no go.” The sale—ultimately worth over $1 million—was lost . . . because his behavior made is seem that it was about the sale not about helping us get the right fit for our four organizations.

You need to trust that your efforts to help will “come back to you” in expanding the scope of your value and ultimately will lead to work with organizations! This “give it away first” is a common theme in the on-line entrepreneurial world today. But, to me it is just good practice . . . help when and where you can and don’t focus on selling. Trust that if you provide value then opportunities will come.

The Training

A note about training. I love doing training. If done well, it lowers the bar, for employees to learn. It avoids the natural defenses and poor coping skills displayed in trying to intervene in a more direct way. It invites experimenting and play. Yes, ultimately, to make real changes you have work to do, but a good training can often open the door to the willingness to approach the harder work in a positive and healthy way.

For those readers interested in the training details . . . it was delivered in a six hour-workshop format on site. Our training focus is on promoting the actual practice of good teamwork—and this workshop was no different. This is important! Teams need practice. Few teams are significantly impacted by a lecture on teamwork. (see post: Training Should be like Music Lessons)

Attendees engaged in practicing teamwork through attempting tasks such as defusing “bombs” through heightening their communication skills and strengthening their interactional processes. This entertaining process avoids long lectures about what good teamwork is in favor of training the actual skills—much like practicing the piano or guitar—so that teams have an awareness of what it takes to be a productive part of a team and have practiced the skills.

We have done this training several times and in different market segments—with non-profits, groups of professionals, for profits, and this time, would be with a government department. Each team is unique and each group brings different levels of preparedness. All teams, however, benefit from revisiting and training on the skills of effective team work.

Often, problems encountered in teams are due to normal—or abnormal—human actions or behavior but intervening, successfully, in these human systems is complex. What one team members sees as an attempt to help is seen as interference or undermining. Defenses get put up. Blame is passed around. Team members try to decipher who is right/wrong and to whom they owe loyalty. It can become quite a destructive mess—and often all for good reasons of loyalty, protecting, problem solving, etc.

Trainings . . . the HSC way!

To make an impact, HSC training are designed to focus on three things.

  • Building on sound research. Bryan, the founder of HSC,, has a background in research and trainings are developed with sound methodology and processes.

  • Refining skills in an interactive setting. A team is only as good as the collective team member’s skills.

  • Deep understanding of human systems. Simply because a system is more than the sum of it’s parts. Placing all the components of a iPhone in a box doesn’t result in an iPhone.

What effects do our trainings have on work teams? The trainings . . .

  1. Raise awareness of the skills needed for high team performance

  2. Identify barriers to skill acquisition and achievement.

  3. Promote a strengths-based approach to growth

Sometimes our training is part of an overall consulting project (See what we do: Organizational Behavioral Consulting). But at other times it is a stand-alone activity to bolster the functioning of a team.

The greatest value however comes in the providers of the training. A couple of years ago we did part of one of our trainings for a leadership conference. Afterwards, a consultant, who works in the insurance industry, mentioned that they would like to learn to do the training we did that day. I told her that I would be happy to share our resources and support her learning to deliver the training, but what I could not duplicate was the experience of having trainers who have been in leadership positions for 20+ years and who have very advanced training and experience in human systems. This is after all where the real value lies . . . in being able to apply it to real teams.

The very thing that she found most valuable—how the presenters engaged the trainees—was likely to be the exact part missing if the training were replicated. She understood. We shared the resources and she made it a goal of using HSC, and our training, in her future work where needed.

HSC’s limited availability for stand-alone trainings means that we are currently scheduling for next year. Interested parties can check for availability by contacting us.

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Team Training Needs to be like Music Lessons

My humble set up. Love my Taylor guitar and the discipline of practice and working toward mastery.

My humble set up. Love my Taylor guitar and the discipline of practice and working toward mastery.

Team Training as Music Lessons

If you really want your team training to make a difference . . . fashion them after music lessons . . . not school.

Remember music lessons? You go, have a 30 minute “lesson,” get your assignment, and go home to practice, hopefully daily, some exercise, technique or mastering a piece of music. Similar, but critically different, than the experience of school—at least as I experienced it—where much of the time the focus was on imparting information—through a lecture for example—where the goal was to master content and demonstrate that through regurgitating it on a test. (BTW: I realize that modern didactic approaches are trying to address this singular approach . . . through recognizing different learning styles and more comprehensive teaching processes . . . but let’s allow the simple duality for the same of drawing, what I think is, an important distinction.)

Two Distinct Approaches

Think about the differences in these two approaches . . .

Music Lessons Classroom

Focus is on skill acquisition. Focus on imparting information.

Short, repetitive instruction and daily practice. Lectures, homework and testing.

Narrow focus: scale, song, technique. Broad focus: history, terminology, theory

Emphasis on practice. Emphasis on teaching.

Outcome: improved skills. Outcome: content mastery.

Moving from “School” to “Lessons”

To often, team training is modeled more on a “school” platform instead of a “music lesson” style. I worked for a time for an organization that had an internal “university” for training. Once a month, the managers would get together for training and typically it was some form of “telling us” about something that would help us do our jobs. At best, it was a way to get a break from the daily grind, conduct business during breaks with our colleagues, and impart some . . . some . . . useful information. Many saw it as a “requirement” and generally a waste of time. Did we walk away with new skills? Rarely.

Supervisors and managers are in their positions precisely because they have skills. But that does not mean they have reached mastery. Like a musician or artisan, the skill building process is on-going because every new situation requires the application of skills in a new way. Just like each piece of music is different and the student has to learn how to apply their talent to performing that particular composition.

Practice . . . and Mastery . . . and Superior Performance

Yo-Yo Ma, the world renown cellist, said, “The goal of practicing is to achieve a freedom of the mind that enables one to physically do whatever they want to do. Careful practicing eventually allows one the freedom to be spontaneous, to react onstage to the moment.” I also heard this virtuoso in a live interview once comment that if he missed a day of practice, he would notice. If he missed two days, his teacher would notice. If he missed three days, the audience would notice.

Yo-Yo Ma, Wikipedia

Yo-Yo Ma, Wikipedia

How many leaders dedicate themselves to continuous skill development? How many organizations allow for, or prioritize skill development, as a goal for leaders? In my experience, not many.

Two stand out in my experience. One provided their “point person” to take several weeks each summer for continuous training. Another limited the role of their leader to one primary task in order to have them continue to develop a high degree of skill in that task. In both cases, the results were spectacular. Those two leaders excelled in their roles and it was clear why. The organizational support for their practicing and mastering their talks was remarkable.

Organizations have come to understand the need. They provide coaches, they allow time for continuing education, they promote leadership development. But few, really have a clear focus on creating a “music lesson” mentality and a consistent focus on specific skill development. The well-documented decline in interpersonal skills in the age of social media and virtual relationships among younger cohorts of leaders makes this need an urgent focus for the future of leadership in organizations.

Buy Engaging Your Team: A framework for leading “difficult” people here, or get it for free by joining our email list!



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A Peek into Our . . . not Google's (sorry!) . . . Consulting Algorithm

I think a map would definitely help in this case! Photo by  Victor Garcia  on  Unsplash

I think a map would definitely help in this case! Photo by Victor Garcia on Unsplash

Just finished a post for our email subscribers about the critical need for professionals, turned consultants, to have an “algorithm,” or decision-making process, process or path, to guide them as they engage with human systems. This engagement may be in developing their private practice through contracting or by going “beyond the couch” and becoming a consultant. In plain terms, this algorithm can be boiled down to a series of questions and decision points that creates a path to follow, such as . .

HSC CONSULTING ALGORITHM: (Sample questions to ask yourself.)
1. Do I have contact with a decision maker? YES .....
NO ......

1A. If, YES, go to #2 . . .
1B If, NO, then ask to make contact or move on . . . .

2. Does the decision maker recognize a need? YES ....
NO ....

2A. If, YES, go to #3.
2B. If, NO, go to 1B.

3. Does the recognized need, require a deep understanding of the human system? YES . . .
NO . . .
3A. If, YES, go to #4.
3B. If, NO, Is the need solely training/coaching for the decision maker? YES . . .
NO . . .

3C. If 3B is YES, then seek conceptual agreement to propose training/coaching.
3D. If 3B is NO, explore the issues and how they relate to the system, then seek
further exploratory meetings or a conceptual agreement to propose
consulting.

The Power of an Algorithm

The power of an algorithm like this is comes in . . . confidence. Confidence in knowing where you are in the process, what has been done already, what needs to be done next, and a process that is replicable—and can be used again and again with decision makers. This algorithm, for HSC, has developed through more than two decades of consulting work, reading the consulting literature, teaching graduate students and professionals how to do consulting, and our own publishing.

Developing this process at HSC has evolved to the point that we created our IMPACT Model of consulting and forms the core of our Competitive Edge Coaching process . . . helping mental health professionals who want to develop consulting contracts. We even created a “cheat sheet” of our process in our IMPACT Model Quick Start Guide.

Moving from Healthcare to Contracting/Consulting

For those starting, or wanting to start, this process . . . here is a place to start:

  • Recognize that this process—creating an algorithm—is helpful for getting private practice contracts that provide “health care” . . . as well as consulting with organizations. At HSC we have done both—private Employee Assistance Programs, for example, and business consulting/coaching. We use the same process for both.

  • Read everything you can get your hands on about consulting. Especially, resources coming from those who transitioned from health care to consulting since they will speak the same language and can highlight the similarities and differences.

  • Consider getting training as a coach or consultant. Training programs will decrease the time and effort to make the transition and start getting contracts. Organizations such as the International Coaching Foundation, or others, can help you get moving.

  • Adopt an “algorithm” process or plan that has worked for other consultants until you develop your own—if you ever need to. Don’t “reinvent the wheel” start by finding a template to follow then you will tweak that, or create your own, as you gain experience.

  • Be patient, but aggressive. Remember, it will take time to transition into a new product or service and to transform yourself into a new skill-set. Be realistic about your progress and not overly self-critical. Get support, find mentors, and just keep working . . . and it will be likely to happen.

Sign up for our emails . . . and get a free eBook.



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One Tool to Rule Them All . . . My favorite tool by far!

Wikipedia

Wikipedia

"One Tool to Rule Them All, One Tool to find them, one Tool to bring them all and in the darkness bind them."   Someone other than J.R.R. Tolkien

My precioussssss . . .

Ever find something that captivated you like nothing else? Something you could not get off your mind? Something you constantly return to over and over again to find new facets of it's nature and utility?  No, it's not time for a trip to Mt. Doom to rid Middle-Earth of the dangerous ring. It's only an awe-inspiring app called Trello.

Trello is by far my favorite tool. I use it for almost everything I do as an entrepreneur and consultant. Among other things too numerous to mention, I use Trello to: track my business operations, market my business, store and deliver products and services, communicate and provide value to customers, create "tool carts" of resources to be used again and again with new customers . . . and I just keep finding new ways to use this tool.

The best thing about Trello is that it is so flexible and so intuitive.  You can learn to use it in minutes and you can still be finding new ways to use it after more than a year. Oh, another nice feature is it is free for the basic app--which will be all that most users need.

I am so excited about Trello that I have trained my HSC consultants on using it, provided a free web-training, and tout it's use to my customers.  Finally, because others continue to ask, I decided to record a video of my basic training so it can be shared by more people.

Pic by . . . me.  Hobbiton near Matamata, New Zealand

Pic by . . . me.  Hobbiton near Matamata, New Zealand

While Trello itself has really good resources to train you on it's use (and I would recommend using them) they often are very broadly applied--there simply are so many ways to use Trello that it would be impossible to target the training to a specialized interest. Thus you often have to search out applications that help you apply Trello's usefulness to your business needs.

In training consultants, I demonstrate the basic structure of Trello, introduce them to the common features they need to understand, and then show them the many ways we have put this to use working as a consulting firm. We think it will open up new ideas for how consultants can increase your efficiency and make the work easier. If you check it out, just don't get too obsessed with it, you don't want to end up like Frodo.

 

Available eBooks:

Private Practice through Contracting: Decreasing dependence on insurance.

Engaging Your Team: A framework for managing difficult people.

Family Legacy: Protecting family in family business.

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What is an Organizational Behavioral Consultant?

Keith & Bryan.png

Organizational Behavioral Consultant.  

Organizational Behavioral Consultant. It's a mouthful isn't it?  That’s the title one early consultee used as a label for what HSC does with organizations. What exactly does it mean?  Well, I'll give you my take.  

First, the focus on Organizations means understanding the human "system."  Our founder, Bryan Miller, was steeped in systems theory including taking courses on topics like “Cybernetics of Cybernetics”—a course on the “system of human systems”—whose underpinnings were all about systemic theory. Studying how complex systems of human work was critical to the founding of HSC.

So, when we talk about consulting with organizations, or being an Organizational Behavioral Consultant (OBC)—the consultant should have a focus on the organization as a wholistic richly cross-joined system.  He or she needs to understand the entire "animal" and how subsystems work within the larger needs of the organization.  They need to understand that each subsystem is interdependent upon the others and a change in one will effect the other subsystems.

Second, Behavioral means that the focus is on how the organizations actually "acts"--what it believes, says, and does. No grand theoretical models here!  Instead it is a practical, pragmatic, approach that focuses on real outcomes and solutions. Understanding human behavior can, of course, be acquired over time by any consultant. However, at HSC, our consultants have backgrounds in the helping professions and leadership. With high-level training, and experience, in understanding the complex behavior of groups and individuals, HSC provides a rigor and depth of analysis and direction not found in typical consulting processes.

Third, consultant.  At HSC, this means a collaborative partnership.  Working with the talented, smart, experienced leadership in a way that allows our "outside" perspective and experiences with the methods, processes, and tools of consulting to help influence and guide the steps to creating the most effective and successful system. Our approach is to build upon the strengths of the organization and it’s leadership. Challenging each to rise to its best performance and breaking down barriers to that goal.

These traits . . . system-focused, behavioral, collaborative . . . enable us to use our tools (employee interviews, focus group, action planning, coaching) to quickly identify and target issues holding back the organization and free it to move forward in a less stressed and sustainable manner.

Well, that's it.  Organizational. Behavioral. Consultant. This defines HSC and the work we do to help leaders and organizations support and connect the power of their human resources.

Available eBooks:

Private Practice through Contracting: Decreasing dependence on insurance.

Engaging Your Team: A framework for managing difficult people.

Family Legacy: Protecting family in family business.

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Regaining the joy of your career

Photo by  Devin Avery  on  Unsplash

Photo by Devin Avery on Unsplash

In an earlier post (on professional burnout) I told about some of the lessons I am learning about why experienced and successful professionals get burned out. Today, I’m going to share with you some of the solutions. 

Regaining the joy of your career:

  • Only do what no one else can do. (Many professionals can teach basic parenting skills but few can talk from their own experience what it is like to stay married for 35 years.)

  • Rank order your responsibilities. (Your family's needs before additional networking contacts.)

  • Consider a leave of absence . . . with a plan. (Sometimes a break will reinvigorate and help you redirect your energy in the right places.)

  • Avoid unnecessary exposure to traumatic material. (You get enough of that in your work as a professional . . . it should not be your hobby as well!)

  • Set your own goals and stubbornly maintain them. (After all, if you don't who will?)

  • Formalize and prioritize your self-care. ("All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy" they used to say. It's true.)

  • Consider what it really means to you to be "at work."

  • Use an advisory team to find new ways of providing your services. (Too many professionals go it on their own. They don't value or utilize a professional coach or mentor. This can be a path to burnout.)

  • Do “a little . . . well” or “a lot . . . well enough.” (Don’t be perfect. Don’t be the best . . . right now. Unless you limit your focus to one thing. Some can do this and be very successful. Some can't and some shouldn't . . . know who you are and what works for you.)

  • Ease back into your career one step at a time. (If you are "toasty" and can't stand what you are doing . . . try to get a break. But once it is over don't just jump back in! Prioritize and transform what and how you are as a professional.)

  • Consider changing careers. (In the final analysis or some it is just time to make a permanent change. Better that than decades of dread, inefficiency, boardroom, and failure.)

All the best!

Bryan

P.S.  One way I have avoided burnout is through contracting and consulting.  If you haven't already downloaded our free eBook, Private Practice through Contracting, feel free to check it out.

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