TEDx Talk: The Minimalist Manager Mindset

If you want to understand Minimalist Management living and leading, this blog, and to a large degree…me… give this a quick watch. I hope it is helpful to you. The key themes are purpose, mentorship, self-reflection, faith, gratitude, wisdom, leadership and of course minimalism. I am honored to have shared the TEDx stage with so many amazing people. Check out tedxcreightonu.com!

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How I Applied New Tactics to Declutter My Mind & Surroundings

Stuff … stuff … and more stuff … I am amazed at how much stuff comes through my front door.

Junk mail, papers, tchotchkes, candies, toys … the clutter keeps piling up.  And this stockpiling of stuff doesn’t come only in the physical form – there’s also the mental stuff. The emails, the priorities, the inner dialogue, the to-do lists… this type of mental clutter can be just as taxing as the physical.

That’s why, earlier this year, I set a goal to get rid of the mental and physical clutter that prevented me from achieving the goals I had set for myself — the clutter that had been staring me in the eyes for years, daring me to go toe-to-toe with it.

While this goal was certainly nothing new to me, the time and intention I was willing to invest in it was.

You see, I seem to go through a cycle of decluttering every few months or so, only to find myself back in the very same place I started.  The cycle goes something like this …

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Stage 1: The Overzealous Purge

Nothing is safe or sacred at this point!  I’m determined to get rid of all the items I haven’t touched in months and to clear my agenda of any activity that doesn’t help me achieve my goals.

Stage 2: The Rational Purge

Ok… let’s be reasonable.  I can’t be irresponsible by getting rid of things that would cost money to replace.  I bet I’ll use these in the future, or even better… maybe I’ll save them for a garage sale.

Stage 3: There’s No Time to Purge

Sigh!  I’ve run completely out of time, and now all my items and thoughts are scattered.  I’ll quickly put them back in their place and get rid of them next weekend.

Sound familiar?

So, this year … I was (and still am) in the process of doing this differently.  How?

Enlisting the help of my husband and children.

Typically, my decluttering activities are a solo sport.  But this time, I thought it was important for us to participate in it together.  Because we all have different reasons for keeping particular items or doing particular activities, I wanted to ensure I wasn’t placing judgment on things they valued.

Now… some of you might be thinking, “How in the world does Bike Trailyour whole family have time to declutter life together?  We can hardly find time to eat together.”  Well, we had to get creative.

While I had increased my time commitment to this activity, not everyone in the house had that same luxury.  So, I made sure to actively involve them when I could, and I set key items and questions aside for them to review when they had the time.

Being more intentional about ‘how I decided’ to get rid of stuff.

I was never good at getting rid of items I haven’t used in a year; after all, we don’t always keep possessions because of their practical use.  We keep them for deeper reasons, as well.  So, rather than repeating the same old thought process, I decided to apply the five purposeful questions shared in a previous Minimalist Manager article.

I asked myself …

  1. Does this bring me joy?
  2. Does this help me live out my values?
  3. Does this help me employ my strengths or mitigate my weaknesses?
  4. Does this help me fulfill my purpose?
  5. Does this help me execute my strategy?

Asking these questions made the world of difference!  Especially when it came to items that I saw as ‘junk’, but my husband saw as ‘joy’ (or vice versa).  Or activities that some thought were a ‘waste of time’ and others thought were ‘helping them employ their strengths.’

By understanding each other’s perspectives, we stopped complaining about the things ‘we needed to get rid of, but never did’.  Instead, we saw their value for what it was… meaningful in its own way.

Prioritizing the most important and realistic areas to declutter. 

In the past, I’ve been guilty of taking on too much at once (a common theme you’ll notice in future posts).  Because of this massive undertaking, I tend to move the ball slightly forward on a lot of things rather than fully forward on a few.

Having recognized and acknowledged this personal tendency, I decided to prioritize the most important areas of my life that I needed to declutter.  I achieved this by noting the way particular rooms, activities, surroundings and people made me feel.

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Tackling the kitchen … one of those rooms that kept taunting me!

Then I asked myself … “can you realistically improve this?”  If the answer was ‘yes’, it made the list.  If the answer was ‘no’, I moved it down the priority list until something changes.

I also used the five questions above to guide which activities were most important.  While I might want to clean out my fridge, clearing out junk in my office is more likely to impact the success of my goals.

Where are you?

We are all on separate paths to decluttering our lives.  Whether it is the physical junk that has been sitting in the corner of our room, mental clutter that blocks our creative thoughts, or activities that keep us from what is most important, we all have different ‘stuff’ we need to tackle.

Head Clutter

Whatever ‘stuff’ is holding you back from fulfilling your personal goals, I encourage you to think about what you can declutter to get yourself back on track.

Join the Minimalist Management community.

Killing Motivation Vampires: Micro-Management

Motivation Vampire

Micro-management is a motivation vampire…please forgive the hyperbole.

A quick working definition of micro-management is to manage with excessive control.

Autonomy is life giving…being controlled will suck the life right out of you.

Signs You Are A Micro-Manager

We Need To Talk About Your Flair
Office Space must be referenced in this post.

Obviously, what is excessive varies from situation to situation and some situations require more oversight than others. For example, when a task is new to a person they may require significant oversight and instruction, but if they still need a high level of oversight and instruction after some training then either they do not have the attributes required, the tools required, the proper context in which to practice, or you are a poor teacher/coach/manager.

Minimalist Management

Minimalist Management is based in the belief that meaningful and clear work allows people to flourish. The people you care about…team at work, children, friends, etc…will thrive when they are working toward something they believe is meaningful and they understand how to be successful.

This pertains to teaching your children to mow the lawn, enlisting your friends in your service activity of choice, or influencing your team to support the new organizational strategy. Meaning and clarity matter!

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Meaning and clarity are abundant in farming and I don’t know many unmotivated farmers

This isn’t just an opinion. Research published in the top academic journals supports this claim. Meaning and clarity are a part of what is often called empowerment. For example, Seibert, Wang, and Courtright (2011) provide evidence from numerous studies that empowerment is positively related to satisfaction, commitment, performance, voluntary pro-social behaviors, and innovation. Further, it is negatively related to strain and a desire to leave an organization. If you want more nerdery, I will put a little more at the end of the article.

If you started to glaze over during the academic speak…that is all really good stuff for the people you care about.

Warding Off Micro-Management Using Minimalist Management

The Minimalist Manager version of garlic, mirrors and sunlight, or a crucifix and holy water is the The Minimalist Management Bill of Rights. It provides some good starting points for warding off this motivation vampire as well as many other motivation vampires.

If you fear you will need to struggle against a real vampire read Six Ways To Stop A Vampire.
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This entrepreneur is the picture of meaning meets clarity

Right 1. Everyone deserves the opportunity to strive toward something personally meaningful.

Do your people understand how their work will improve things for themselves, their family, their team, their organization? If not, it’s time for a conversation. Don’t assume they do. You know what they say about assuming…Don’t do it…this is a family blog.

Right 2. Everyone deserves to have clarity of task and purpose.

Do your people understand what is being asked of them and why they are being asked to perform that task? If not, it’s time for a conversation.

Right 3. Everyone deserves to believe that they can successfully complete their work.

Do your people have the abilities and tools to complete their work as well as an environment conducive to the completion of their work? If not, you need to train them up or move them to another task. You need to get them the tools they need. And/or you need to create a conducive environment. Failure to do these things will lead to demotivation as it will be unclear to your people how they can be successful.

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Task: Put the ball in the net. How: Using the tactics and skills we have practiced.

Be Diligent

By using these rights as pillars of your culture you should ward off micro-management before drastic measures are required.

However, if you are not diligent then your people will likely fall short of your expectations and you might convince yourself that your people need excessive control. You will then exercise that control and you will create a negative habit that will drain your people until they avoid you, quit, end the friendship, or end up in years of therapy to overcome your parenting.

You have the choice to drain life or give life to your people. Don’t be a vampire.

As always, if you found this helpful please share.

Join the Facebook Community!

Bonus Nerdery

Just to be clear. I could go on and on talking data on this…

One more example study, Liden, Wayne, and Sparrowe (2000) showed that meaning and competence (two key dimensions of empowerment) held important relationships with outcome variables. Meaning held the key relationship with satisfaction and commitment while competence was key to performance. We need all three to create a healthy performance environment. This study also provides empirical evidence for the importance of high quality inter-personal relationships even when controlling for beliefs about the work itself.

A note about the study referenced in the main part of the post. That study was a meta-analysis. Meta-analysis combines across many studies to estimate the relationship between variables of interest. That study suggests that individual level empowerment is most strongly related to job satisfaction (r = .64), then organizational commitment (r = .63), then strain (r = -.37), then intention to leave (r = -.36), then organizational citizenship behavior (r = .34; pro-social helping behavior), then innovation (r = .28), then task performance (r = .27; r = .54 when people rated their own performance). Empowerment is also likely related to other variable you might find interesting, but those variables likely had not yet been studied enough to be included in this caliber of meta-analysis. Unfortunately, this meta-analysis didn’t break down empowerment into its underlying parts, but it is otherwise a great piece of work and I am not just saying that because two or the three authors are friends of mine. It was published in the Journal of Applied Psychology which is the top applied psychology journal in the world (as was Liden et al.).

 

 

5 Purposeful Questions To Help You Get Rid of “Stuff”

At the core of the current minimalist conversation is “own less stuff so that your stuff doesn’t own you”.

I totally buy into this…

Much more importantly, I believe Christ actually taught this…

If you are not a Christ follower, Buddha, Confucius, and Socrates all seem to agree as well.

My take is that “stuff” can get in the way of relationships with those I love…Jesus, my family, my friends, my colleagues, my partners (see Value #1 below). So we need to get rid of obstructionary “stuff”.

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Time to get rid of the quotation marks around “stuff”. Stuff goes beyond physical possessions. Our definition of stuff must include the activities that consume our time.

As we manage across all the areas of our life we need to curate our stuff so that we only buy/keep possessions and engage in activities that add value to our lives and the lives of those we love.

In The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up Marie Kondō suggests we ask of each item “Does it bring me joy?”. I think this can be helpful.

However, I believe it is a bit overly simplistic.

Minimalist Management is about the pursuit of purpose. So I think we need a more nuanced approach.

My laptop does not bring me joy in-and-of-itself, in fact I hate it sometimes. It, and other devices, can be a curse just as they can be a blessing. That said, I sure need my laptop in order to pursue my purpose. The pursuit of purpose brings me joy…so I guess I need to keep my laptop.

I hate clothes and I wish I could wear my black polos about 344 days a year (on the other days I would be in my kayak and would look very strange in a black polo) but I can’t cut back to just black polos because the career I love frequently requires that I wear a shirt with more than three buttons. That said, if the shirt isn’t required for something that will lead to joy…it should go.

I must keep some things that I despise because they are required by or for people/activities I love.

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Beautiful but absurd

If you work through the process of putting together a personal strategic plan it can serve as your guide to whether you need to own a possession or engage in an activity. Once you know your purpose and strategy you can ask “Will this thing help me achieve my purpose?”. Or, “Will this activity help me reach a goal that will move me closer to fulfilling my purpose?”.

If you cannot answer yes to at least one of the following it needs to go or you need to stop doing it…hint, the questions are not mutually exclusive.

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Does This Bring Me Joy?

If something truly brings joy…and you are sure you are being honest with yourself and not just justifying…don’t over think it. Upon reflection, you will probably realize that it brings you joy because the thing or activity is helping you live out your purpose(s).

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Making memories with people I love…yes, I mean you Chewbacca.

Does This Help Me Live Out My Values?

Values are our guideposts. I have decided to try to live by four (see above). If I own a possession or engage in an activity that does not represent meaningful relationships, growth, kindness, or impact then it needs to go.

Personal Strategy Template (3)

Does This Help Me Employ My Strengths or Mitigate My Weaknesses?

If I am not being intellectually stimulated or intellectually stimulating others I feel like I am wasting time…literally wasting my life. So if I am not taking in or dispensing data/knowledge/wisdom for more than brief recharge periods I get frustrated and listless.

I need to put my strengths to work! Activities and things that enable the utilization of my strengths should be kept…but not hoarded…I probably only need one of each necessary thing*. Activities and things that distract me and do not recharge me need to be jettisoned.

On the flip side, when I try to spend time thinking about time management, organization, or am trying to lock in on details…I quickly short circuit. These things are important and I can force myself to do them for short periods when I believe they are important for executing my strategy, but I need things and people to help me here. I also need to occasionally invest time in making sure these weaknesses aren’t derailing me.

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I love watching this kid grow.

Does This Help Me Fulfill My Purpose?

“I exist to help people grow into their full God-given potential so that they can impact the world.”

That is my purpose at this point in my life…maybe for the rest of my life.

I am blessed to work in a profession that easily maps onto this purpose. But Minimalist Management spans across all the areas of our life. I am sure people who don’t know me very well …and maybe some who do…wonder why I invest so much in my kids activities (time, money, mental energy).

The answer is quite simple…

I believe based on my life experiences that what kids gain from sports and music will help them grow into adults that will impact the world (teamwork, perseverance, creativity to name a few…but that is a different post).

These are certainly not the only activities that could yield positive outcomes, but I believe they work and they fit with my values. So I happily invest in the things that facilitate these activities and in the activities themselves.

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Building relationships with, and in, God’s creation.

Does This Help Me Execute My Strategy?

Whether it is the high levels strategic goals or the shorter term goals that will lead to your strategic goals the lesson is the same…if it doesn’t help, it probably hurts.

We need to focus. Buying that gadget instead of investing in your growth or your child’s growth…probably not helpful. Sacrificing a vacation in nature where you can bond with your friends or family (if relationship is a core value) because you are constantly getting fast food…probably not helpful.

Personal Strategy Template (11)

If we are going to maximize our motivation, capability, and subsequent impact…we need to be intentional in what we own and what we do. Anything else will limit our ability to have an impact.

Prefontaine
We all have a gift. – Image from Runner Tribe

If you have already put together your Personal Strategy, but haven’t yet started to prune back the possessions that aren’t adding value to your life then start today by getting rid of ten things that don’t help you move forward intentionally based on the above questions.

Or, commit to quitting one activity that is not purposeful and shifting that time to an activity that is.

There are a lot of great minimalist challenges and other resources out there that can guide you in pruning. Here are a few examples for those new to the idea of minimalism.

The More of Less – Josh Becker

The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up – Marie Kondō

The 30-Day Minimalism Game

Tiny Buddha

If you haven’t yet put together your Personal Strategy then I encourage you to do so. Once you put it together…own it…use it to guide you in your pruning and curating.

Move forward today!

If you find this post interesting, helpful, motivating, or inspiring please post to social media so you can help others and we can grow this community. Posting to Facebook and/or LinkedIn would be ideal…I am really trying to grow community on those sites.

If you want to engage further please join the Minimalist Management Community by following this blog and/or joining us on Facebook.

 

*Footnote

Collections are interesting, I don’t believe there is anything wrong with collecting as long as it is on purpose. I like to collect sports cards with my kids. We build relationship through the process and I think it teaches lessons.

How To Craft A Simple Personal Strategy That Drives Impact

If you are like me you hate when you are not working toward something meaningful and/or not living up to your God-given potential. I live with the desire to avoid these situations. Personal strategic planning is a tool that I believe can be helpful for each of us.

As I wrote in Why You Need A Personal Strategic Plan, creating and owning a strategy provides many benefits to successful organizations and I believe many of these same benefits are available to each of us if we employ a tailored version of these same planning tools.

I was due for a plan refresh and decided that working through my personal strategy would be the best way to model a simple but effective way for people to build their own plan. I hope you agree.

Here is a link to the Personal Strategy Template. It should be downloadable and editable. This tool is simple, but much reflection is required to arrive at something that will be meaningful and motivational to you.

Personal Strategy Template (12)

Values Clarification

If you haven’t reflected on what you truly value then you have some work to do. I don’t like the idea that we should all run to some predetermined set of values and just pick a few that feel right to us. Although this might be helpful for some, I think it is most useful to put what you value into your own words so you know exactly what you mean.

If you don’t understand what you value then you cannot successfully determine your purpose or strategy.

Simply understanding what you truly value will lead you to clarity that will improve prioritization and decision-making.

Here are some questions and resources to use as thought starters.

These are all worthless if you are not honest with yourself. After you develop your values I suggest running them by someone who knows you well so that they can call BS if you are off base…the same is true of the subsequent parts of the strategy document.

What do you hope people will say about you when you die?

Write your own obituary.

What do you want carved into your tombstone?

When do you feel most like your true self?

When do you feel most alive?

Describe the personal characteristics of the perfect person.

What things or ideas would you never sacrifice?

What are your greatest aspirations?

Who do you truly love?

What do you truly love?

Co-Active Coaching Resource

TheHappinessTrap.com

Personal Strategy Template (7)

Strengths & Weaknesses

To be crystal clear…we all have both!

Mountains of research suggests that when you are working in your areas of strength you will be more effective. Also, and contrary to some people’s/organization’s beliefs, your weaknesses matter as well.

You need to bolster and work from strength while mitigating weaknesses so they do not become fatal flaws.

Once you understand your personal strengths and weaknesses you can better determine which opportunities are a good fit and what might derail your pursuit of a given opportunity. Furthermore, you will better understand which tasks you should take on yourself vs. those that require you to ask for help (delegate, partner, hire).

Questions and tools to help you determine your strengths.

What do people regularly compliment you on?

What activities lead to positive feedback?

What do other people see as your strengths (hint, ask them)?

What attributes do you have that are fairly unique (skills, degrees, experiences, certifications, personal networks)?

Gallup Strengths

Questions and tools to help you determine your weaknesses.

What tasks or situations most frustrate you?

What tasks or situations lead you to most frustrate others?

What tasks do you hate?

When do you most lack confidence?

What do other people see as your weaknesses (hint, ask them and stress that you need to know the truth)?

What habits do you have that lead to frustration (missing deadlines, arriving late, being unorganized, miscalculating)?

Personal Strategy Template (3)

Purpose Statement

I believe lives are clarified through purpose driven work. This can be work that is done for a business, not-for-profit, your family, or for yourself. When people have a sense of purpose they are more motivated and effective.

I believe that you need to have a purpose statement that is informed by your values and strengths then drives your personal strategy. Some people might prefer to call this a mission statement and that works too if it is authentic and/or meaningful to you.

The statement does not have to be fancy. It should be short and clear. People who know you should see it as authentic.

I believe we can all determine a purpose that is inclusive of our entire lives. However, it will take several drafts and will likely change over time as circumstances change and you better discern your values, strengths, and weaknesses.

Some questions to help guide you to your purpose statement.

What value do you want to provide (your family, your work, your community, the world)?

Which of your activities provide the most value to the people you care about?

What do you desire to do in and for the world?

Personal Strategy Template (10)

Strategy Statement

I am a big fan of Collins and Rukstad’s, and Lafley and Martin’s work on strategy creation. That said, their full treatments are probably overkill for most beginning personal strategists. As long as you have discerned your values, strengths, weaknesses, and purpose/mission I think you can write your strategy statement with just a little further effort.

You need your object, scope, and advantage (Collins and Rukstad).

Objective = A specific and measurable goal that will drive you into the future.

Mine has two parts because it is mine and that is what I need, but don’t go much beyond two or three parts or it will lose its ability to provide focus. Make yours meaningful to you!

Scope = Where you will take action (context, “customer”, activity areas, market, industry, etc)?

Advantage = What unique contribution(s) will you make that will allow you to meet your goal? You have a contribution to make!

Then combine these into a concise statement.

Goals

What specific, measurable, and challenging but achievable goals do you need to meet in the short-term (one year) that will lead to you meet your strategic goal(s)?

These goals should guide your monthly, weekly, and daily (to do list) goals.

If these goals are properly aligned with your strategy you can monitor your progress via the completion of these goals. Three is probably not enough for me given my strategy, but I think that is a good starting point.

If working toward your goals is exhausting or demoralizing you…something is amiss. They probably aren’t the right goals or you may have some personal work to do.

I hope this is a helpful starting point and I would love to help you continue on your journey. Please post questions and eventually your strategy statement as a comment to this post on the Facebook page. I would also love to hear about your successes and setbacks. I believe a Minimalist Manager Community would be helpful to people. Let’s get one started on Facebook.

Why You Need A Personal Strategic Plan

Crave fulfillment personally and/or professionally?

Desire clarity about how to best invest your time, energy, money?

Striving to create more value for yourself and/or those you love?

Then you (and I) need a personal strategic plan. Once you have developed a personal strategic plan you might use these same tools to develop a family or work team plan (the list could go on) that flows from your personal strategy. The point is, strategy isn’t just for the Fortune 500 or sexy start-ups aiming to disrupt an industry! Shouldn’t you use the same tools that drive world-class organizations to help you achieve your purpose more fully? Yes, you (and I) should…and here’s why!

Decision Making

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First Worm Collection of the Year

Life is about decision making. If you are conscious, you are making decisions.  Strategy exists to ensure that decisions are made in-line with purpose (or maybe you prefer mission)! My purpose in life is to help people grow…toward Christ likeness if you are from my faith tradition! Ideally all of my decisions would drive toward fulfillment of that purpose…at a minimum they shouldn’t contradict. Once you know your purpose and develop a strategic plan that flows from your purpose you will be able to better make decisions like: Should I make this purchase? Should I change jobs? Should I join this group? Should my company launch this new product? How should I spend my Saturday?

In my family we were blessed with the choice between having our oldest son do another select sport that would take up the time between his soccer seasons – which is his passion – and investing in a family fortress of solitude. He would have loved to play baseball, but as a family we chose the campground. Baseball would have been great. He would have made friends, developed his work ethic and team mentality, and had fun. When we are at the campground we get a ton of immediate and extended family time, we spend time in nature, we relax, we reflect, and we refocus. We were choosing between two goods. We chose the fortress of solitude because it added unique value vs. another sport. In the grand scheme of helping each of us grow we saw the campground as the better choice. This may have been exactly the wrong decision for you and your family, but it was the right one for us based on my/our strategic goals.

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The Fortress of Solitude

A well crafted strategic plan will help your decisions be grounded in intentionality, priority, advantage, and improvement.

Intentionality

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Every turn is a choice

Mindless decisions tend to be impulsive, add little value, and may be regrettable. Utilizing a strategic plan eliminates mindlessness. Decisions that are on purpose/strategy are by definition intentional. Next time you are faced with a decision of most any size you can ask yourself, “Will this help me achieve one of my strategic goals?” or, “Which of these will best help me achieve one of my strategic goals?” If you develop a strategic mindset you (and I) will still occasionally make poor choices, but they will only be mindless/unintentional when you make the decision not to employ your strategy…and of course that will be your choice.

Priority

How do you choose between two goods? Should I refine this spreadsheet to tell a better story or should I have coffee with my employee who is struggling? Both actions are good…which is better? The answer depends on your personal strategy. Which action most moves you toward fulfilling your strategic goals? In some cases this may require you to ask which goal is currently most important. In the case of our choice between another sport and investing in the camper, adding another sport would have further developed important attributes, but those were already being developed by soccer and basketball. We were progressing well toward developing our son’s work ethic and teamwork. We were not progressing well in trying to carve out time for the growth activities the campground provides.

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Yes, baseball is fun but…

Advantage

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Strength, yes it’s a stretch but come on…

Are you investing your time and energy in-line with your strengths? We all have limited time and energy. A well crafted strategic plan ensures that you will invest your time in activities where you are well equipped vs. other people or teams (as long as you are self-aware and honest with yourself). For example, I create more value for my family by focusing on my primary work and time with the family than by managing my personal financial plan. I love the intellectual activity of investing, but in terms of my life plan and strategic goals I create more value doing other things. Accordingly, I have chosen to work with professionals to help me in that area.

Improvement

How do you know you are improving/progressing/growing? One approach is to measure your progress toward your goals. A plan that produces measurable goals allows us to see our improvement over time. The first summer we had the camper we didn’t use it as well as we could have and we knew it. Consequently, we made it a goal to spend more quality days at the campground. The goal has two parts. More days and more quality. The next summer we said we wanted to get to the campground at least five weekends…more time. We did the same this summer. We met that goal. We also knew we didn’t really engage in all the activities that we needed to meet our goals for campground time. We didn’t have the gear we needed to get on the water and to actually catch those elusive fish. The second summer we bought a kayak and brought up the fishing gear we already had. The third summer we bought a stand-up paddle board and fishing gear that actually met our needs. All intentional purchases based on our goals for that time. The quality of our time at the campground increased. Each summer has been more fun, more relaxing, and more energizing. Obviously, this same mindset can be applied at work, church, or other activity areas.

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His first solo voyage in the kayak…growth!

I have found that the more purpose driven I am, the happier and more effective I am. If this is true for you then I think you will find a personal strategic plan to be extremely helpful. Accordingly, my short-term plan for this blog and related activities is to focus on crafting strategy. My goal – that I am publicly committing to – is to help folks who are interested create their own strategic plan by creating a new one for myself and posting every step. For those who want to jump ahead please buy or check out the book Playing to Win for an outstanding model from the corporate world (you can buy it from Amazon by clicking on the link). To engage in conversation please like my Facebook page.

Wondering what this site is all about? Read “Why Minimalist Manager”

Want a different take on how to view a relationship? Give this post on mentorship a read.

 

 

 

 

Ingredients For Success From Great Chefs – Achatz Edition

Let’s get this out of the way up front, I am obsessed with Chef’s Table. It feeds my soul! I suspect this post is simply the first course of many in the meal that is “Ingredients For Success From Great Chefs”. All puns intended, but I will try to limit them from this point forward.

Introduction To The Series

Many world class chef’s are amazing people, many are jerks. I am going to try to write about the one’s who I believe are amazing people that add more to the world than they subtract. Obviously their cuisine adds value or they wouldn’t be believed to be great chefs, but I want to look deeper. I want to try to see what we can learn from the chefs who create amazing experiences for BOTH their patrons and their kitchen.

Why look at chefs in the context of a minimalism themed blog? Chefs, while their recipes are complex, have a clear purpose…create experiences around food that feed body, mind, and in some cases, soul.

Grant Achatz – Alinea

Learning about Grant Achatz has been a mind blowing experience. Grant was named one of Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People, has won essentially every culinary award, and appears to have made a lot of money. He is clearly a success by any normal standard. But if you have been following this blog, you know that is not what The Minimalist Manager is all about. I am writing about Chef Achatz because I believe he is truly inspiring others with his purpose driven work and is empowering his team to do the same.

In watching the Chef’s Table and reading about Achatz, three lessons emerged regarding success.

There Will Be Pain

In Chef Achatz’s life the pain was both quite real, life threatening in fact, as well as figurative. Grant didn’t graduate from culinary school and immediately start a world class restaurant. In fact, his first big opportunity was a flop. When he landed a position cooking under Charlie Trotter (a world class chef who I will never feature) he learned from an anti-mentor about how not to run a kitchen. He saw a cut throat environment that was all about individual rather than team pursuits…he was miserable and did not last long. Painful learning experience. Grant thought about hanging up his apron. The culinary world is obviously glad he didn’t.

We can all learn from this experience. Most great success does not come easy, there is usually failure along the way that causes people to consider what they really want. Purpose is called into question! Sometimes this leads people to understand that they are truly off track and need to make a major change. Other times it simply clarifies what people truly want and better illuminates how they need to move forward.

The literal pain came as Chef Achatz and Alinea where hitting their stride. Chef Achatz was diagnosed with stage four tongue cancer…yep, a world class chef with tongue cancer (you can read the amazing details of his treatment and recovery elsewhere). He lost his sense of taste for a time, but actually used this to his advantage. This trial led him to a greater intellectual understanding of what made great food and to a greater trust and use of his team…breakthrough stuff in the world of fine dining.

We all have trials, most less dramatic than his. What can we learn from our trials that will make us better moving forward?

Curate Experience

To fully understand the degree to which Grant’s team thinks about experience you will need to dine at the restaurant (I have not but would love to if someone would like to take me), but through Chef’s Table you get a sense. Every decision is made toward the goal of blowing the guest’s mind. Foods are made to look like other foods, restaurant decor is turned into food before the guest’s eyes, and foods literally float. Even the way patrons enter the restaurant is viewed as part of the dining experience. Notice I didn’t highlight the flavor of the food. It obviously tastes amazing, but that is simply the start.

Chef Achatz is also curating a work environment that maximizes the creativity of himself and his team so they can continue to create these amazing experiences anew. Team members are given voice and encouraged to create. Achatz has also created a cuisine skunk works where he and his team experiment until innovation is achieved. He believes that innovation is more a product of hard work than flashes of brilliance.

What is your singular goal? Your team’s? What experiences are you curating for your clients/customers/patrons and team that lead toward execution of your goal?

Find and Be an Amazing Mentor

After Grant’s painful experience in Charlie Trotter’ kitchen. He found his way to Northern California and The French Laundry. When he walked in to inquire about a job he found a man sweeping the floor only to learn that the man was Thomas Keller. In short he found a mentor who ran a world class restaurant in an empowering way. A leader who created a culture of continuous growth and creativity. Grant’s understanding of his purpose was clarified through this relationship. He was given the opportunity to learn to create for himself. When Achatz created his first signature dish Keller asked Grant if he was ok with his creation forever being known as a French Laundry/Keller dish or whether he would like to save it for himself. Grant gave back to his mentor.

Fast forward several years and you find a culture at Alinea that is reminiscent of French Laundry and a cook being mentored by Chef Achatz who has figured out how to make sugar float…yep. Grant of course asked his protégé, “are you ok with this dish forever being known as an Alinea/Achatz dish?” Protégé again gave back to mentor.

Greatness begets greatness!

Who should you be learning from? Who should you be mentoring?

Chef Achatz is an inspiration. Time for me to do some imagining about how to better curate experiences in my context! I wonder if Chef Achatz would mentor me?

 

 

Wise is as Wise Does

Wisdom is a misunderstood concept. When thinking of wisdom many people imagine an old man stroking his white beard, or a Tibetan monk type who spends most of his time praying in seclusion. While folks that fit this description might well be wise, these are not helpful images for a leader to have in mind.

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In my way of thinking, which is based heavily on the book of James*, one cannot be wise unless one acts wise. To twist the phrase from Forrest Gump…

Wise Is As Wise Does

Anyone can be wise, facial hair or not. Wisdom is seen through the lens of action. Leaders who are wise will be seen as:

  1. Gentle: Leaders who are gentle do not seek harm for others. This isn’t just about physical harm. This relates to how we speak to others, how we speak about others, and whether we consider the impact our actions indirectly have on others.
  2. Willing to yield: Leaders who are willing to yield are not stubborn. They listen, will admit when someone else has a point, and will change.
  3. Merciful: Leaders who are merciful are kind and forgiving even when they have every right to treat someone harshly.
  4. Showing no favoritism: Leaders cannot show favoritism. Nothing good comes from having in-groups and out-groups. Everyone has to feel they are a part of the team in order for them to strive toward a common goal.
  5. Sincere: Leaders who are sincere have integrity. They value the right things and they genuinely live out those values.

Leading wisely yields peace amongst the team! This peace creates a culture where people feel safe, and thus are willing to put themselves out there on behalf of the team. Isn’t this what we all want?

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Motives Matter

Leaders must also check their motives. Only people motivated toward the good of others are engaging in wise action. People who are motivated by jealousy and/or selfish ambition will not act wisely. Jealous people are acting either out of envy or the need to try to protect what they perceive to be theirs. They are not thinking about how to create the best outcome for the team. Similarly, while ambition is not a bad thing, ambition that is simply about self promotion isn’t wise. Over time followers will see through selfish leaders. A selfish leader’s actions will give her/him away and people will begin to sense disorder. Ultimately, this will ruin any chance for peace and safety. Thanks for playing selfish leader…Game Over!!!

*True Wisdom Comes from God

13 If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom. 14 But if you are bitterly jealous and there is selfish ambition in your heart, don’t cover up the truth with boasting and lying. 15 For jealousy and selfishness are not God’s kind of wisdom. Such things are earthly, unspiritual, and demonic. 16 For wherever there is jealousy and selfish ambition, there you will find disorder and evil of every kind.

17 But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere. 18 And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness.

https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=James%203&version=NLT

Goals Are Good! For most people…

Exhausted all the time? “GOOD” management might be crushing you!

It is old hat to say that managers should lead toward goals in order to drive efficiency and effectiveness…although many managers still fall short here. It also true that conscientious people are more likely to strive to achieve goals and that more emotionally stable people are less likely to experience stress and exhaustion. However, goal directed management is no silver bullet. For some people goal pursuit might have unintended consequences like stress and exhaustion. Exhausted people aren’t flourishing!

Perry and colleagues* studied 252 customer service providers and 47 of their managers, as well as 392 manual laborers and 41 of their managers. They found that people who are high in conscientiousness and emotional stability and have goal focused managers are less likely to suffer from exhaustion. This is not surprising and reinforces prior research!

However, they found two interesting and important things. First, people who are lower in conscientiousness and emotional stability are more likely to be exhausted in highly goal focused situations. Second, a lack of conscientiousness can be offset by emotional stability and vice versa. Accordingly, if you want to avoid burning out those around you it is imperative that you hire people who are either highly conscientious or emotionally stable…if you cannot find people who are both.

The Minimalist Manager Take Aways:

  • Hire for conscientiousness and emotional stability.
  • Tailor goals and communication around goals to each person’s needs.

*Perry, S. J., Witt, L. A., Penney, L. M., & Atwater, L. (2010). The downside of goal-focused leadership: The role of personality in subordinate exhaustion. Journal Of Applied Psychology, 95(6), 1145-1153.

 

Why “Minimalist” Manager?

I am sure a few people out there are wondering why I call this blog The Minimalist Manager. A few might be thinking, “Todd’s first two posts didn’t scream minimalism to me”. So here goes…Minimalism and Minimalist Management is about cutting through the chaos and clutter to get to clarity of purpose and freedom to strive toward that purpose. Only under these circumstances will people fully flourish.

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Minimalism is way of proceeding that rejects the idea that we have to do everything and consume much in order to be happy. Minimalist Management proposes that we need meaningful and clear work in order to grow and thrive. Minimalism does not mean we should all retreat to the woods, forage for food, and meditate all day long. It means we should decide what we truly value and organize our lives accordingly. This extends well beyond work, but it is a powerful way of approaching our work lives. As the The Minimalist Management Manifesto suggests, I believe that our greatest aspiration should be to help others flourish while striving to flourish ourselves. I believe we can best achieve this by pruning back to what’s healthy and productive.

I fail at this regularly, but I am most happy when I am working on core activities both at work and at home. Peripheral activities may be required at times, but they should be minimized in favor of value creating activities. Each of us must determine our core value creating activities and invest as much time there as possible.

Three clarifying questions:

Which of your activities create the most value for you and those you value?

When do you feel most productive?

When do you feel most like your true self?

Most of us do not have the luxury of quitting our jobs and retreating to nature or traveling the world…if you do you probably are not reading this blog. But many of us could focus our time and energy differently, change jobs, change companies, or change careers once we determine the circumstances that will best enable us to flourish. We must create a context for our growth. We owe it to ourselves and those we value.

Ask the tough questions!!!

More on Minimalism. These guys’ blog has been important in driving minimalism.

Here is a collection of their essays on the topic. Essential: Essays by The Minimalists

In order to move forward information is often helpful.

To join the Minimalist Manager Facebook Community