Sunday, February 21, 2010
In times of economic scarcity, with many experiencing job loss and companies seeing declining sales and profits, it requires courage and innovation to avoid either taking desperate actions that violate one’s purpose and values, or becoming paralyzed by a sense of helplessness. Rather, it’s essential to keep trying different paths that move in the direction of your purpose, in a deliberate and confident manner. Therefore innovation becomes even more necessary than usual.
The battleground for the struggle between courage and fear is the Self. Self is the first of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom; seven sets of skills or competencies necessary for success. Self is represented by the S in acronym SOPPHIA, the Greek word for wisdom. Skills of self-awareness and self-management are severely tested during these challenging economic times. The I in SOPPHIA represents Innovation, the ability to generate ideas and to develop them into services and products that create value for others. Skills of Innovation can be brought to bear once courage has gained the advantage over fear. One of the P’s in SOPPHIA represents Purpose, another of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom. Clarity about your life Purpose serves as a compass or GPS during turbulent times.
If you are in this type of situation either as a job seeker, business owner, or business leader, you may well experience moments of intense fear; fear of failure and of the unknown; fear of not being able to find the resources to sustain yourself, others who depend on you, or the business. You may also feel regret, resentment or self-pity about your situation. But all these feelings are challenges that must be overcome in order to see and grasp the opportunities that will arise. They are reactions to your situation, and are not identical with your situation. You can change these emotional reactions with practice, and that is usually necessary in order to successfully deal with a challenging situation. You also will need to act even while you still have doubts and are not fully confident in your ability to succeed. Yes, opportunities for jobs and for profits are fewer in times like these, but they still exist. It requires more resolve and creativity than usual to attain them, and that is your task. All your resources and sensibilities must be applied deliberately.
Don’t become complacent either, waiting for someone else to take action. Action is required of you, but it needs to be thoughtful action. There will be times when you don’t have any idea of what will work, and neither do your advisors. At such times, it is necessary to take a few steps in some direction, your best guess, and observe the results. Such small experiments can help you to find the correct path without too much cost in time or other resources.
Remember that the best value proposition you can offer to an employer or a customer is still innovation: that is, the generation of creative ideas, and the development of these into services and products that are valuable to others. You must use your own store of creativity to add something to the value creation process for the customer or the employer. Therefore, it’s important to keep your mind and emotions in that energetic, open and creative space, and to also apply that creativity to the process of marketing your value to employers or customers. Keep the focus on meeting their needs rather than your own. By doing this successfully, you will be able to add value and therefore you will be compensated for that.
If you feel like you’re at a dead end and think that you have a full perspective on the situation, remind yourself that there is always more going on than you know. After all, you’re not God. Get past your fear. Get past yourself. Look around with new eyes. There are possibilities and resources that you have access to that you are not using. It’s not going to be easy. But you will get it done. I tell you this from both personal and professional experience.
I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. To get coaching from me, go to www.sopphia.com.
Thursday, February 18, 2010
It comes as no surprise that when Daniel Levinson did his ground breaking studies reported in his books The Stages of a Man’s Life and the Stages of a Woman’s life, he found that mentoring played a significant role in the life and career development of the participants. Beginning with parents and teachers, we each understand from our own experiences how important it is to have the guidance and support of more experienced people, who nurture us at critical points. A business partnership can also serve a similar function, where two people or more provide each other mutual support and guidance from a complementary set of strengths.
Sometimes mentoring transforms into partnership as the junior person matures. This is what I experienced in the longest lasting business relationship in my life. It began when I was in graduate school and worked closely with a professor, whom I will call Henry. Henry became my mentor in the profession of psychology. We became friends, and then I became his flute teacher; so we had a bit of role reversal. Eventually, I went to business school and then we decided to form a business partnership with a third person. That person dropped out after two years and Henry and I spent 17 years building two multi-million dollar businesses, before going our separate ways.
The relationship factor represents one of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom in the SOPPHIA model. These are seven sets of skills or competencies linked to business and individual success. The word Sophia is Greek for wisdom, and the ‘O’ in the acronym SOPPHIA, stands for Others – i.e. relationships. The close relationships that occur in mentoring and partnerships help us to walk the delicate path between living our purpose and creating value for others through the process of innovation. Purpose and Innovation are two other of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom that promote business and personal success.
There is indeed a delicate path to walk between living your purpose and creating value for others. We shouldn’t assume that just because you are passionate about an activity, that it is your purpose or calling or that you can use it to create value for others. First, purpose includes not just passion, but a commitment to achieving excellence. Therefore competence is also required, in addition to passion. But even if you are passionate about something and excel in it, this may still not result in value creation for others. Value creation depends on meeting other people’s needs and wants.
Needs and wants are quite complex. Even a need that is absolute, such as the need to eat food to survive, can be expressed and satisfied in seemingly infinite ways. So satisfying the need to eat becomes a matter of taste and fashion. That you are passionate about and excellent at creating certain delicacies, will only be perceived as valuable if they meet the prevailing taste and fashion of a community of potential customers enough to generate demand.
Mentoring and partnerships help both to clarify purpose and to socialize it. They get us both into and out of our own heads. They help us to channel our sense of purpose into forms that are more likely to be of value to other people. They connect that inner flame with the needs and tastes of the community of others who are likely to become the customers of our successful innovation.
I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. To learn more go to www.sopphia.com.
Wednesday, February 10, 2010
There are a number of models that are helpful in facilitating a major organizational change, whether this involves changing information technology systems, organizational structure, work processes and roles, or a combination of these. However, since rapid change is becoming a regular feature of organizational life rather than the exception, it seems optimal to use a model for change management or change leadership that is applicable to the ongoing state of striving for excellence in achieving the mission, and living the vision of the organization. SOPPHIA, the Greek word for wisdom, is an acronym representing what I call The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom; seven sets of skills or competencies for achieving individual and organizational success: S - for self; O - for Others; P - for Purpose; P - for Presence; H - for Health; I - for Innovation; and A - for Assurance. This essay explores how the SOPPHIA model can help us to deal with rapid change as the normal state of affairs.
The SOPPHIA model is just a conceptual framework for organizing skills or competencies that have been researched for many years, have been shown to enhance individual and organizational performance, and have been incorporated into performance management systems by large corporations and governments. In addition to the seven sets of skills represented by the SOPPHIA concept, research in both change management and in performance excellence have highlighted the importance of communication, engagement, and measurement. We can think of these are three major streams of activity that are necessary to support better organizational outcomes. Using phrases that together can become a call for action, I name them respectively:
• Make it clear!
• Engage and support! and
• Keep Score!
“Make it clear!” immediately raises the question of just what is it that we need to make clear. In other words, what is our purpose? Purpose is of course one of the seven dimensions of wisdom, the first P is SOPPHIA. Purpose is more than a goal. It is a goal or set of goals that are deeply rooted in the core values, vision and mission of an organization. Therefore in a time of major change, the leadership must craft and transmit a compelling explanation of what needs to be done and why, and be continually communicating it in both actions and words.
The first challenge to be overcome is in the Self, the first of the seven dimensions of wisdom. Just as in ancient times when the prophet or shaman received a vision that required the people to radically change what they had been doing previously, both leaders and followers will experience resistance to change based on fear, habit and custom. This requires finding the courage in oneself to face the unknown. At the same time, helping others to overcome their fear and inertia requires excellent relationship skills; and this is the dimension of wisdom represented by the O in SOPPHIA, standing for Others. Employees’ fear of change is often based on concerns about their jobs being eliminated, or that they will not be competent in the new ways of working. These and other issues must be addressed directly and leaders must show employees a believable path to success for them.
“Make it clear!” morphs into “Engage and Support!” as it become necessary not just to tell people about the new direction, but to coach and teach them; to bolster their courage, deepen their commitment, and to give them the tools to succeed in this new world that is being created. Two other dimensions of wisdom come into play here: Presence, the second P in SOPPHIA; and Assurance. Presence is the ability to be effectively in the present, to really listen to others, and to inhabit one’s own body and senses, rather than being distracted and mentally somewhere else. Presence brings calm and focus and increases the capability to deal with challenges. Assurance similarly is the ability to call on resources seemingly beyond oneself and others. This is faith of some kind that generates hope, endurance and perseverance even in the face of seemingly impossible odds.
And remember, while all this is going on, we still need to Keep Score! Measuring reactions and results is necessary in order to know where we stand in relation to our goals. Ongoing measurement is also important to give clarity, direction and hope, as well as to keep expectations within the realm of what can be achieved. Measurement also tells us what is working and what needs to be improved. Improvement is dependent on Innovation, the I in SOPPHIA. Innovation includes the generation of ideas and the development of those ideas into value-creating solutions. Innovation flourishes in an environment where there is a clear and compelling Purpose, and the Presence and Assurance to help hope to triumph over fear and despair.
The one dimension of wisdom not yet discussed is Health, the H in SOPPHIA. Particularly during times of stress, it is important to remember that we are human beings, not computers. Promoting and maintaining physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health is essential to achieving and sustaining high levels of performance.
Therefore, in the context of ongoing rapid change, remember to “Make it clear!”, “Engage and support!”, “Keep score!” and call on all The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom represented by the word SOPPHIA.
I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. Learn more about leading change at www.sopphia.com.
Sunday, February 7, 2010
Customer Relationships And Value Creation: The Fundamentals Are Trust, Generosity, Courage And Wisdom
When we meet in the marketplace of things and ideas, we must have something of value to contribute. That can only come from the somewhat mysterious process in which we digest and reflect on our own experience and that of others. It requires settling into the stillness of being present, where we are reconciled with our known past and unknown future. We go past exhaustion and pain to the source of energy and creativity in the present. That’s where ideas come from. And ideas diligently pursued and developed become innovations. I consider Innovation to be one of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom; seven sets of skills or competencies for success.
Customer relationships are at the core of it. So let’s start with basic question. What is a customer relationship? A potential customer is someone with a need or want, that your service or product (the result of your innovation) can satisfy. For a transaction to occur that can develop into a relationship over time, the potential customer must become aware of the need or want, and of your service or product as one possible way of satisfying it at an acceptable cost.
After awareness, must come trust; the confidence that buying the product or service from you will lead to satisfaction. A free sample or some other way of experiencing the product or service prior to purchase can be a part of establishing trust. Another way is through having a relationship prior to the purchase. This can either be a direct relationship with the provider of the service or product, or through referral from or affiliation with another person or company that is already trusted. The bottom line is that you receive trust because you have given. Therefore trust is related to generosity.
How do you establish trust with another person? It begins with generosity but also requires courage. Courage is required to overcome your fears and desires about your own needs, and to become authentically generous and compassionate about other people’s needs. That is the struggle with self. We are each motivated in part by the desire for financial security; to obtain resources for our own benefit and for the benefit of those close to us. We may also have other motivations such as for power and prestige. Without denying the reality of these motivations, we must still develop the courage to look past these needs and desires to focus on the needs and interests of others. The skills for self awareness and self management, on one hand, and the skills of relating to people, on the other, are two more of The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom.
To develop a service or product that truly adds value, you must get past self-interest and become engage in the creative process; i.e. lose yourself in the passion for creating something. This is the first act of generosity. Though you may expect to be repaid ultimately for that generosity, the passion and commitment required to perfect your gift is more than can be generated by merely the hope of financial gain. In other words, purpose and passion are required; a commitment to excellence and to producing results.
The customer relationship is built through face-to-face interaction, through one-way media including television, radio, newspapers and magazines, and now more frequently through the dialog enabled by the social media. Regardless of the medium, there are still human beings on both sides, and relationships are ultimately based on fundamentals qualities such as generosity, courage, and trust.
I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes. You can learn more the coaching and consulting I offer based on The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom at www.sopphia.com. Sopphia is spelled here with two P’s; and it is the Greek word for wisdom.
Monday, February 1, 2010
When you’re running a business or leading a large organization, the level of daily activity can be so intense and absorbing, that there is little time or energy to either enjoy the work itself, or to reflect on where you are heading in the long run. Or perhaps your situation is one where you are alternately extremely busy and very bored. Yes, in the long run we are all dead, as John Maynard Keynes said. But that’s not what we consider our destination or our destiny.
These two seemingly conflicting emphases on the present versus the future highlight the importance of Purpose and Presence in achieving success and fulfillment. Purpose is the commitment to excellence and to producing meaningful results. The key word here is meaningful. Sometimes we are producing results that meet some external measure, but are not ultimately meaningful to us within the full scope of our lives. Presence is the ability to be effectively in the moment, bringing your full attention to what is happening now. This is different from being focused, which can be accomplished just by developing tunnel vision. Presence implies a joy in inhabiting your body and perceiving and mindfully interacting with people and events. Other people can see when we are truly present, and listening.
Purpose and Presence are two of what I call The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom; seven sets of skills or competencies for success. Purpose and Presence are skills that you can develop with practice. You no doubt have goals such as accumulating a certain amount of wealth, attaining positions of greater power and influence, and helping others. But to shape those goals into a life purpose requires disciplined and courageous reflection, followed by decisions and action. It includes placing these career or business goals within the context of the other aspects of your life beyond work; because fulfillment requires that integration.
As you make progress in clarifying your Purpose, you realize that Purpose and Presence are not contradictory, but rather are compatible. Clarifying Purpose actually clears a space in which you can be present. This means making decisions about how to use your limited time; rather than trying to do everything. You keep the things that are essential to your Purpose and let some other things go. With some of that available time, you can commit to practicing being present; breathing, smelling the roses, being with those you love.
It’s difficult for any of us to make these kinds of life changes on our own. As someone who built two multi-million dollar businesses, I know that from personal experience. That’s why life coaching and executive coaching can be helpful. Depending on your particular goals and situation, with the help of a coach you can focus primarily on work and business issues, or use a more holistic approach that includes balancing the other aspects of your life.
I’m Dr. Bernard Brookes, to contact me about coaching using The 7 Dimensions of Wisdom, go to www.sopphia.com.