Archive for the 'Change' Category

Don’t put off reading this!

If you’re reading this, you’ll know I relapsed. I’m likely on a first name basis at a meeting of Procrastinators Anonymous.

This is the chapter my editor keeps on file for when I wait to the last minute and then that minute gets interrupted by a case of pinkeye.

Or maybe I just couldn’t resist checking my bank account and sports scores and online garage sales. Maybe I needed just the right cup of coffee to get started, but the Keurig spit out only grinds. Whatever the reason(s), I procrastinated.

Procrastination occupies the punch line of plenty of jokes and quips.

“Procrastinators are the leaders of tomorrow.”

“Never put off to tomorrow what you can put off to the day after tomorrow.”

In Latin, “pro” means “forward” and “crastinare” means “of tomorrow”. The two combine to stockpile many good intentions. We all know the roots of the disease, but, for therapy’s sake, let’s review.

  1. Fear of failure. Whether I’m apprehensive about trying something for the first time or I’ve done something a hundred times but fear this one might not measure up, fear of getting it wrong can slow me to a crawl.
  2. Perfectionism. If I can’t do something precisely right, I often would rather not do it at all. So time slips away while I think about how to accomplish a task perfectly, forgetting that it’s only in practicing a task that my performance actually improves.
  3. Urgent vs. important. Small fires burn so uncomfortably hot that I think I must address them immediately. I think they will only take a second, but they can smoke out priorities for hours and days.

Procrastinating is not necessarily irrational. Work generally expands to fill time. So, it makes sense to compress a project into a window that closes right at a deadline. Deadlines force action.

But this is the rationale of someone who can’t leave well enough alone, someone who obsesses over a project to the bitter end, someone addicted to the adrenaline that comes from squeaking under a wire.

Some possible cures for procrastin-addicts:

  1. Let it go. If you let a project go when it is reasonably done, it will be easier to start the next one. You may need a reasonable third party to help define what “reasonably done” looks like. Your OCD won’t necessarily know.
  2. Care less about what others think. All you can do is all you can do. If it’s your best effort at that point in time, it shouldn’t matter what other people think. Remember: most people are neither for you nor against you. They are only thinking about themselves.
  3. Visualize. This is the most cliche of my recommendations, but it really does help to imagine what it will be like to get something done. Think the thoughts, feel the feelings of relief and satisfaction. Or, conversely, imagine the consequences of inaction.

If all else fails, perendinate (verb – to put off until the day after tomorrow).

If all else fails, add a word to your vocabulary: perendinate – v. to put off until the day after tomorrow!

 

Follow Kevin Thompson at http://www.kwt.info.

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Texas town wrestles with growth

The slogan “BOERNE, TEXAS GONE FOREVER” is appearing on a growing number of bumpers. The sticker is usually attached to a work truck or a seasoned sedan. A faded Bush/Cheney sticker may also represent.

I have not chatted with any driver of any vehicle bearing the inscription, but I believe I understand the sentiment: The good days are gone. The suburbs have come.

I saw the sticker most recently at a relatively new burger café in town. The restaurant has a playground, a party room and a patio. Evidently, the driver was trying to warm up to “new Boerne” with an ice cold milkshake. He or she was enjoying an amenity made possible only by growth.

Therein lies the irony: We typically love what’s on the other side of the traffic.

Nearly ten years ago when my first child trotted out for his first soccer game at Boerne City Park, all the cars could fit in the parking lot. Today, you might have to park down by River Road or on the Kendall County Fairgrounds. The number of players and fans keeps increasing.

When my fourth child trotted out to his first game this fall, I endured the inconvenience because I want him to play on manicured fields in a well-run program. I try to remember: If the facilities were sub-par and the organization was lacking, I’d have plenty of prime spaces to choose from.

A recent snippet in the “Star Rewind” section of these pages told of a “New business for Boerne.” The year was 1955. Almega Corporation of Austin planned to come to Boerne “to manufacture toys, games and novelties and set up a complete industrial silk screening plant.”

The company had agreed to purchase an historic Main Street building built by Henry Adler in 1911. Bergmann Lumber, the oldest hardware store in Kendall County and the standard bearer for mom and pop shops attempting to stay relevant in a big box age, now occupies the space.

I don’t know how long Almega Corporation stayed in the Adler Building or if they even moved in. I don’t know what wooden or metal toys they made there or what garments they decorated. Someone with a BOERNE, TEXAS GONE FOREVER bumper sticker could probably tell me.

But the thought of a new business once occupying a now classic structure should give us some perspective.

I needed this perspective recently when I saw a strange object in town. I thought it had rolled off the back of a construction truck before I realized it was part of Boerne’s new public art initiative. Art al Fresco (art in “fresh air”) is a joint effort of the City of Boerne and the local arts community.

It may take me some time to recognize the beauty in my midst. I may very well wish for a windmill or a water tower instead. But I am committed to staying open to change.

Boerne has grown in spurts for decades. Every generation experiences it. The old Boerne commemorated on bumper stickers is really just a figment of a nostalgic imagination. The tranquility we remember over milkshakes was once someone else’s traffic.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

What’s your leadership quotient?

“There are two kinds of people in the world,” Dr. Lyle Sussman began his seminar. “One kind walks into a room and the room lights up. The other kind walks out of a room and the room lights up. Which kind are you?”

Sussman is a Professor of Management at the University of Louisville. He writes and speaks on leadership, motivation, performance and teamwork.

Sussman believes great leadership begins with great followership. His Golden Rule of Management is this: “Are you the kind of employee that YOU would want to manage?”

Self-examination is critical to improving one’s leadership quotient or “LQ”. LQ is Sussman’s measurement of a person’s ability to lead effectively.

“It’s hard to look at yourself,” Sussman says. “It’s easy to stay in that river in Egypt: denial.”

The cure for denial involves asking the people around us for honest feedback about how we act. It is a painful process. It is also a helpful one. Sussman recommends 360-degree reviews where more than an employee’s supervisor comments on the employee’s performance. These reviews should be done anonymously.

Presentee-ism can be as big of a problem as absenteeism, Sussman says. He once asked a seminar attendee, “How many people work in your company?” His reply: “About half of them.”

Management guru Peter Drucker was convinced that most organizations are over-managed and under-led. Sussman agrees. All employees are volunteers, even if they get paid. They have free will and can choose how hard they will work. Managers can buy talent, but they must earn loyalty.

The goal of both managers and employees is to increase value and reduce costs. Value and costs can be in both monetary and non-monetary terms. Non-monetary cost reductions may include resolving conflict or reducing stress.

Volunteer-employees create value for your organization. What are you doing as a leader to make them smarter? Sussman asks. When’s the last time one of them came to you with an idea to make the organization better?

Productivity is the product of efficiency and effectiveness. Efficiency means limiting costs. Effectiveness means getting a job done. Sussman explains efficiency and effectiveness with a quadrant matrix:

1. Not efficient, not effective – This person raises costs, but doesn’t achieve goals (will soon be fired or bankrupt)

2. Efficient, but not effective – This person limits costs, but doesn’t achieve goals

3. Not efficient, but effective – This person raises costs, but at least achieves goals

4. Efficient, effective – This person limits costs while achieving goals

Category 4 is obviously the model employee, but most employees fall into Category 3. Effective coaching can help employees ascend into Category 4.

Unfortunately, good coaching can be scarce. Most managers are more referee than coach. It’s easier to carry a rule book and a whistle than to invest in an employee’s development. That requires courage and self-sacrifice.

With regard to coaching, courage, self-sacrifice and getting out of one’s comfort zone, Sussman had a unique perspective on the growing industry of executive coaching and consulting.

Coaches and consultants are paid to get people to do things they already know they should do. People who actually do what they know really do believe what they know.

We’ve all heard the adage: “You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.” Hogwash, Sussman says.

“The trick is to make the horse thirsty.”

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.

Staying relevant in an evolving world

I had gone down to the hotel lobby for a bucket of ice. In one of the meeting rooms, all my banking seminar classmates were watching a movie that our instructor had assigned for the next day’s class. Somehow, I missed the memo – probably because there was never a memo, only a GroupMe message.

I figured it out four days later, after missing a handful of other class meetings and announcements. And I thought I was being progressive when I listed “text” as my preferred communication method.

I obviously had never heard of GroupMe. Consequently, my group never heard from me. I was, in a way, inconsequential. That is, irrelevant.

Of all the things I’d like people to say about me, “relevant” is on the list. I want to matter – to my kids, to my wife, to my customers, to my employer.

The more the world changes – and the faster it changes – the harder it is to feel relevant. Fortunately, my banking school schedule included a course on keeping bank branches relevant in an internet banking world. It was taught by Dave Martin, a retail banking columnist for American Banker magazine.

Martin said the average American visits a bank branch two or three times per year. That may or may not be the number of times your internet banking system requires you to change your password.

Anyway, what is the need for a physical bank branch when you can do practically every banking task from the confines of your underwear?

Good question, and surely one my employer considered before opening a not-cheap 4,500 square foot banking center for me to run last year.

Cavernous bank lobbies are a holdover from when lines of customers snaked to and fro waiting to deposit paper paychecks. Today, checks are nearly extinct. Less than fifteen years ago, fifteen Federal Reserve check processing centers scattered the country. Only one remains.

Evolution is happening in every industry, Mr Martin observes with both a comforting addendum and a prescient warning: “Evolution does not mean elimination, but failing to evolve guarantees elimination.”

According to Martin, organizational progress gets threatened by three types of people. “Snipers” shoot down every idea that might move an organization or a person forward. They have a form of intelligence but deny its power.

“Historians” remember when every idea failed before. Never mind that the landscape may have changed in a way that will now grant the idea success. Historians are stuck in the good ‘ole days which are “good” primarily because you know how they turned out. The past didn’t kill you so it seems safe now.

“Jetsons” are futurists who saw the answer to every perplexity last night on the Discovery Channel. If you would just buy a new technology system or adopt the latest production technique, your performance issues would be solved.

Relevant people aren’t snipers – they fail more, not less, than average. They aren’t historians – they don’t trip on things behind them. They aren’t Jetsons – they recognize that success stems from the consistent application of good habits, that everything is hard until it is easy.

Mr Martin believes bank branches can still provide a place for people to get straight answers from people they trust about financial questions. They can profitably serve as the human interface of the bank’s online operations. They can stay relevant.

And I can learn to use GroupMe.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Contact him at kevin@kwt.info.

Protocol for awkward moments

An etiquette expert came to my city’s chamber of commerce recently to help us with our “awkward moments.” I’m pretty sure my fly was down. By the end of her presentation, I was convinced again of something I’ve long believed but don’t always remember: most communication is non-verbal.

At one point, she had us make circles with each thumb and index finger while holding our other fingers straight out. She pointed out that the “b” on the left hand stands for bread; the “d” stands for drink. Formal dinner stuff.

(I actually prefer “BMW”: bread, meal, water. But then again, I’ve never been on The Today Show talking about how to hug your boss’s wife.)

Then, she said, “Hold your ‘d’ above your head. Now, bring it down to your chin.” I brought mine to my temple. Most of us did. Why? Because that’s what she did with her hand. The non-verbal trumped the verbal.

I sat up straighter. I just knew this protocol princess was reading me like a book. She’s about to turn my hereditary awkwardness into a teachable moment for the group.

Somehow, I nodded and smiled just enough to fend off her inclinations to expose. Then she asked us to think of a word that summarized who we’re trying to be. Her examples: powerful, authentic, confident. The only word I could think of was “less-awkward.” (Powerful people hyphenate, by the way.)

She went on talking about greetings (use “hello,” not “hi”) and hand shakes with the opposite sex (men, no limp fish; women, no tourniquets). She covered hand placement (not over privates), feet placement (obtuse angle) and name tag placement (right side).

People who don’t speak at a meeting are more noticed than those who do, she said. When you smile, show your teeth – even if you don’t have any. When you interact, first be interested, then be interesting. In a business meeting, keep your hands above the table most of the time.

I noticed a tension at play. On one hand, we should elevate non-verbals, pay attention to them. They’re saying (1) more than we think and (2) more than our mouths.

On the other hand, we should minimize non-verbals. Get them out of the way as much as possible so that our words mean something. Don’t let non-verbals distract.

As in much of life, the goal is unity. Let the words your mind conceives match your bodily actions. And let your body act according to what your mind has decided you want to be.

And, as in much of life, this union occurs only with practice. The way to overcome uncomfortable moments is to be willing to be uncomfortable for a time.

For example, when I feel awkward, I put my hands in my pockets, subconsciously seeking protection. Instead, the protocol princess wants me to rest my hands at my side or clasp them gently above my waist. Doing so feels awkward but I can see how it communicates greater ease and confidence.

Feeling awkward to overcome awkwardness. I do love paradoxes.

The protocol princess was Diane Gottsman of The Protocol School of Texas. She addressed the graduating class of Leadership Boerne, a program of the Greater Boerne Chamber.


Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas hill country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

To grow or not to grow

I need to grow. On several fronts. My employers have invested in a new office that I run. They expect it to grow. My family needs me to grow in leadership and provision.

By nature, humans grow. Throughout history, humankind moves forward with innovative technologies and sophistications that cure ills and improve standards of living. As a result, the world population has continuously increased.

Economies are also destined and designed for growth. Our expectation of the Gross Domestic Product, the stock market and other investments is that they will grow. Historically, they have. The trends, over time, are up and to the right.

Growth is the norm, not the exception. However, growth is not always a given. Just ask the fired employee. Just ask any number of rural, West Texas towns.

So, when people say, in effect, “Shut the gates behind me!” my eyebrows furl at their naivete. “Shutting the gates” is either a death knell or an exercise in futility. It is not an effective governing strategy.

Kendall County, Texas, made national news in March when U.S. Census data identified it the 5th fastest growing county in the country.

Of the four counties ahead of Kendall, 3 are in the oil patch and one is a master-planned retirement community in Florida. So, if you take out the counties associated with gas production- the roughnecks and the old farts- Kendall is the fastest growing county in America.

Kendall County and its seat, Boerne, located in the Texas Hill Country between San Antonio and Austin, have long wrestled with growth issues. Scenic landscapes, interstate accessibility, exceptional schools, proximity to shopping and services; all these drive attraction.

People want to live here; therefore, developers want to develop here.

With the uptick in the housing market, developers have dusted off subdivision plans. Five thousand residential lots are in the works in or near the Boerne City Limits. But let’s have some intellectual honesty about the development.

According to the City of Boerne Planning Department, only a few hundred lots will even be available to build on in the next twelve months. After that, lots will come online in units and phases over time.

It will take years before all the proposed lots, houses and people come to fruition. And who knows what might change between now and then?

In 2007, developer-bedevilling doomsdayers predicted the passing of Boerne as we knew it. The reports of Boerne’s death were greatly exaggerated, as Twain might say.

I know personally several of the developers who either have built or are now building local subdivision projects. None are the rape and pillage type. They themselves live here, after all. They see no good in biting the hand that feeds them.

Plus, the development process in Boerne is arduous. The margin for error is slight and not conducive to fly by nights.

In the short run, will some traffic spots get worse before they get better? Sure. Will growing pains plague us from time to time? Of course. But given the alternative of economic stagnation and the flight of our youth, I’ll take a sore joint or two.

So, when you hear smeone say “Boerne: No Vacancy,” think to yourself, “Brain: No Occupancy.”

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star in the Texas Hill Country. Follow him at http://www.kwt.info.

Granules for Graduates, 2014 edition

Dear Grads,

I now have spent more years not under my parents’ roof than under it. That makes me twice your age and doubly qualified to offer this unsolicited advice. I know you’ve been waiting for it!

  1. Get a tattoo – in a place where only a very few people will ever, ever see it. Big tattoos shrink the pool of people who will one day hand you money.
  2. Caffeine is the accepted drug of the age. Don’t get hooked. If you need it a lot, your life is out of balance.
  3. Don’t smoke cigarettes. People will think you can’t read. And don’t smoke e-cigs. I don’t care how clean they are, they reek of restlessness.
  4. You’ve been told you can do anything. You can’t. Work your tail off discovering a few things you do well that you also enjoy.
  5. Don’t stall out trying to find the exact school, major, job or mate. There are many right ways to maneuver through life and only a few wrong ones. Just keep moving.
  6. Wherever you work, create. People who create things are more valuable to employers than people who don’t. In other words, you’ll get paid more.
  7. Budgeting is simply deciding where your dollars will go before you spend them. Start budgeting while you have little and it will be easier when you have much – and you WILL have much – if you budget.
  8. Learn to say no. Responsible people will always be in demand. Never be afraid to forego an opportunity if it takes you off your focus.
  9. Time, not money or geography, is the greatest limiting factor of our age. Treat it as your most valuable asset.
  10. Don’t over-schedule. Notice the rhythms of the earth. God created days, months and seasons. Humans created seconds, minutes and hours, often to our detriment.
  11. Go to bed before you’re exhausted and without the TV blaring or the iPhone buzzing. Someone may speak to you.
  12. You are not alone, nor will you ever be. The One who made you loves you. Draw near to him and he will draw near to you.
  13. The people you spend time with will shape who you become. Choose wisely. Screen carefully.
  14. The music you listen to will also shape who you become. Don’t assume the “artist” on the other end has a good plan for your life.
  15. When in doubt, end the relationship. If it’s quality or meant to be, it will come back around.
  16. Sex is not for entertainment. It forms a bond that lasts forever, and it creates children whose lives last forever.
  17. You are responsible for yourself. No qualifiers. No matter what you did or didn’t do, no matter what anyone else did or didn’t do, you are still responsible…for yourself.
  18. You are not responsible for others. People will want you to be responsible for them because they lack the maturity to be responsible for themselves. Don’t give in. It will make you miserable.
  19. With mature people, give and forgive. It will make you happy.
  20. In the end, your life will be judged by how you relate to others. To God, your family, your friends, your enemies, yourself. Relate well and you will have lived well.

Kevin Thompson writes weekly for The Boerne Star. He can be reached at kevin@kwt.info.


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