5 Ways to Implement a Change Without Screwing Everything Up in the Process

change aheadOne of the most common calls we get at our company sounds something like this:

We are looking for some training on how to deal with change. Right now our company is undergoing some massive changes and we can’t seem to get the employees onboard with them. Do you provide any workshops that will teach our people to embrace this change?

Now since training only fixes issues with skills, the client assumes it’s a skill problem. It’s not though. Dealing with change as a skill is a reactive approach that can’t be taught once the emotions of the change have set in. Trust me on this. I have done WAY too many of these workshops when I worked with a large training vendor years ago. The best change adaptation tools won’t help if everyone’s attitude sucks. Most of these sessions turned into “bitch sessions” and attendees left worse off for the experience. The key to having a positive reaction to change is to implement it the right way in the first place.

Why is this so?

Any time you introduce a change to your organization, you shift the status quo. It doesn’t matter if the change is an improvement. Rocking the boat freaks people out.

Knowing this will happen regardless (and it’s doesn’t matter if the change is driven from the top either) means you’ll have to spend a huge amount of time planning and anticipating all reactions before you settle on your change initiative.

Based on my experiences with companies that have done it the right and wrong ways, I’d like to offer up five strategies to help your next change effort go over a whole lot better.

Here we go!

1. Communicate Well

In any change effort, communication is key. By being open and up front with people, you’ll be able to fill in gaps of knowledge with real, legitimate information. Here are some suggestions:

Good Marketing

Be sure any communication puts information in a positive light. Be very clear about the upcoming changes. Don’t hold back on any small details. Acknowledge the pain, but work to reframe it in a favorable light. (“doing these burpees is going to hurt like hell but imagine how good you’ll look in that Speedo this summer!”)

Allow People an Opportunity to Vent (productively)

We often expect people to handle difficult news professionally, but human nature dictates otherwise. Allow people an opportunity to vent their questions and frustrations.  This should be a facilitated event, with professionals keeping the discussion on track. “Bitch sessions” don’t work and often exacerbate the problem. Use good active listening skills and help manage yours, and the emotions of the people around you.

Discuss Rumors

The Grapevine is a tricky issue. 75% of what’s carried on it is usually true, which makes it credible enough to be believed as fact. When you hear rumors, be sure to address them with facts whenever possible. Ignoring rumors gives them credibility.

Be Sensitive

Empathy (as opposed to sympathy) is a helpful behavior for managers and supervisors. Don’t blow off your employees’ fears. Look at the situation through their eyes. Empathy means you listen intently and offer suggestions and help.

Be Optimistic

Optimism is an attitude. We have to choose our attitudes. You can’t expect employees to handle change well if you’re giving off negative vibes. Fix your own attitude before you try to fix those of your employees.

Don’t Ignore Your Employees’ Fears and Questions

Again, be willing to dialog with employees. Ask probing questions. Get their feedback. Establish an environment where they feel comfortable coming to you with their uncertainties.

2. Use Good Policies and Procedures

In any large change effort, you’ll need to lock in some really good policies and procedures to leave your supervisors and employees equipped for success.

Clearly Communicate the Program

This builds on Point #1. Let people know as much information as you have to give them. Don’t allow the Grapevine to do your job for you. Refer them to websites and information sessions as much as you can.

Set Up a Support System

If you’re implementing a new program or system, have the program representative take an active role in giving out communication. Set up a portal on your website to link employees to information,  training, and send out regular email containing program updates. Equip your managers and supervisors. They have to carry the torch for this program.

Encourage Managers to Have Open Conversations

MACK Worldwide’s Interactive Supervisory Skills courses teach the techniques to have these productive conversations using the principles of active listening and negotiation. Contact us if you are interested in providing this course for your managers and supervisors.

3. Effective Performance Management

Performance management is a critical element of a change effort.  Employees are required to show value-added in meeting the company’s goals and mission. Performance management is a constant process that requires a hands-on approach.

Set Clear Expectations

You can’t expect a marksman to hit a target he can’t see. The same applies to employee performance. Your job is to set clear goals and objectives for your employees at the beginning of the cycle and continue to check with them throughout the year. Don’t be vague – your employees need clear communication on your expectations for them.

Link People to the Mission

Do your employees know what your agency or company exists for? If not, educate them! Show them what you’re all about and how their job ties directly into the company’s success. All employees should be evaluated based on their contribution to the mission. Be sure they know what the contribution looks like!

Clearly Communicate Throughout the Year

Traditional performance management gives the goal at the beginning of the cycle and then rewards/punishes a year later. There’s no way to do a course correction in performance if the employee doesn’t know they’ve gone off course. Set regular intervals to check in with your employees and talk about their performance.

Dialog in Person

Don’t give important feedback (good or bad) through email. Let people know up front, in real time. Recognizing good performance verbally encourages more good performance. Addressing poor performance verbally (and professionally) when it happens is much better than waiting until the employee forgets about it.

4. Good and Effective Training

Training is often seen as a panacea for changes, but good training helps facilitate a process through difficult stages. Here are two approaches we recommend change efforts:

Relational/Communication

These courses should come first. They equip managers and supervisors to have productive conversations with employees and give them initial help in addressing performance issues.

Technical

These courses include anything that builds the skills needed in the new change. Be sure to equip employees before expecting them to successfully implement your change.

5. Management Skill Building

Well-prepared and equipped managers and supervisors will ensure your efforts will succeed. Part of this is training and the other part is attitudinal. Here are some suggestions:

Measure Success as What You Do Through and For Your People

This is the leadership component to management. Management in a large part refers to processes and functions but the key element is developing people. Do what you can to build and grow the most important resource you have, your people.

Keep Learning!

You’ll never learn all there is to know when it comes to dealing with people. People skills are hard to come by and even harder to master. Commit to studying one hour per day on managing and leading people. You spend this much time on technical skills, why not devote it to your people skills?

Conclusion

Managing change is difficult. It’s more difficult when it deals with people and in the way people are paid and evaluated. Keep these five principles as you implement these and other changes in your organization.

If you’d like us to sit down with you and help you think through your upcoming change initiative, just give us a call at (931) 221-2988 and let’s set up some time to chat!

How to Run an Effective Staff Meeting

Boring presentation. Group of young business people in smart casual wear looking bored while sitting together at the table and looking awayStaff meetings are one of the bigger time wasters in any organization.  Back before I started my company, I worked for a trade association in Washington, DC.  Staff meetings there turned into a 60-minute plus event where each of us gave a status update on projects.  They turned into nothing more than a chat session where at the end, nothing was accomplished.

My experience isn’t an isolated one.  One of the biggest complaints I hear with clients is the lack of productivity due to incessant meetings.  Managers and executives whine the amount of time they spend in them and lament the fact that some days they go from meeting to meeting to meeting which leaves them no time to do anything else.

I have a solution for you.   It comes from my time in the Navy.  Hold Morning Quarters.

One of the few efficiencies I witnessed in my 15 year career in the Navy was Morning Quarters.  As the Leading Petty Officer at the Branch Dental Clinic in at the Bangor Submarine Base in Silverdale Washington in the mid-1990s, I’d assemble the staff in the dental lab at 0650.  After calling them to attention, I’d read the official Plan of the Day which was a daily briefing from the command regarding events and policies.  I’d ask the staff if there were any issues and then dismiss them to their jobs.  10 minutes max.  What were the secrets and how can you implement them into your non-military organization?

  1. Do the meeting first thing in the morning.  Quarters were held before the patients filed in .  It required having the workplace set up the night before so you could hit the ground running.  Nothing worse than a long meeting followed up by unresolved issues that await you when it’s over.
  2. Stand at attention.  Three important suggestions here.  Meetings go faster when people are uncomfortable.  Sit them in a nice room with comfortable chairs and they’ll soon check out.  Secondly, calling a group to attention (and I know this isn’t doable in a civilian workplace) requires them to stand still and focus straight ahead – no distractions.  Your challenge in your workplace is to remove the distractions.  Keep electronic devices OUT of your meetings.  Pencil and paper only.  Finally, when the group is at attention, only the meeting leader speaks.  Don’t worry, there is time allotted for others to ask questions once the word is passed.
  3. Use a Plan of the Day as a script.  The POD highlighted the most important information.  Your version could include important deadlines, events to attend, or new policies to be aware of.  Use the script.  Don’t deviate.
  4. Keep it short and sweet.  When you’re standing, focused, and get the information in a clear, quick, and concise format, the meeting goes quicker.  Keep staff meetings to 15 minutes or less.  If that seems too short, then you’ve just become accustomed to wasting time as an organizational norm.  If it’s that important, put the information out in a different format that doesn’t require everyone to sit in a meeting.

As a business owner, I know the value and cost of time and what it means to waste it.  If you’re a manager or executive in an organization, you need to think about this and then start counting up how much time is spent in meetings.  Time is money.  Meetings are the thieves that steal it.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask

70 MDA3My1GSVJTVC5qcGc=You have not because you ask not…

-The Holy Bible

I’m learning that the secret to success, to winning the business, to getting what you want, is simply to ask for it.

When we did our vacation on the Carnival cruise ship, I saw this very clearly.  I knew from past experience to carry cash at all times.  The tips on the ship are covered, but beyond that, you need to have some small bills ready to go.  As we got off the bus at the cruise terminal, we were directed to the Faster to the Fun section where our bags were loaded to be sent immediately to our cabin.  The guy who was stacking the bags on the cart then told me:

“Give me your bags and I’ll be sure to get them right up to your cabin.  You can go up there and change and have lunch.  AND, if you want to show your appreciation, you can take care of that right here now with me.”

So I handed him a tip.  Right away.  Not just because I was going to, but he ASKED me for one.

At the end of the week, on a bus carrying us from the cruise terminal back to the airport, the driver came on the PA system:

“My name is Jose.  I’ll be driving you back to the airport.  I’d like to get to know all of your names.  Simply write them down on some dollar bills and you can hand them to me when we arrive at the airport.”

So I gave him a tip.  As soon as I got off the bus.  Not just because I was going to, but he ASKED for one.

Even though people think Americans are pushy and in-your-face, most of us really aren’t.  We rarely ask for what we want assuming people know what we want.  When we don’t get it, we get pissed.  What would happen if we actually ASKED?

Last week I went to Lowes to buy a heavy-duty fan for my barn.  The air doesn’t circulate well out there.  I like to keep it somewhat cool since my cats stay out there and keep the mice out.  The fan I wanted at Lowes was out of stock.  All I saw was the display model which I hooked up to test.  The clerk told me she could order it.  I’d have to travel to East Nashville to pick it up.  I almost agreed, then I said:

“Can’t I just buy this display model?”

She didn’t think so but called a manager and sure enough I could!  Brand new, fully assembled, and right then and there.

I asked and they said yes.

Most of us hold back asking because we fear rejection.  Keep in mind, in most cases, when somebody says NO, they say NO to your idea, not you.  They aren’t rejecting you personally.  Get over it.

I’m really working hard on this idea now.  Will you join me? (noticed I asked!)

The Value of Respect

respect different opinionOne of my favorite comedians of all time was Rodney Dangerfield.  His favorite line was “I’ll tell ya…I don’t get no respect…” and then he’d launch into a story which always ended in some sort of self-deprecating humor.

Aretha Franklin?  Of all the songs she’s famous for, the one you always associate with her is 1967’s Respect.

Let’s just say by some miracle this year, the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars win the rest of their games and run the table all the way to the Superbowl Championship.   I guarantee every player will begin his interview in the winning locker room with something along the lines of: “see nobody respected us and look at us now…”

Respect is something we all crave.  What does it really mean?  Respect says that others take us seriously.

From the first time we get sat at the “kid’s table” at a family gathering to the time we’re deliberately left out of a critical meeting at work, we desperately want to be taken seriously.  If right now you find your motivational level at work, home, elsewhere to be waning, ask yourself if it’s because of a lack of respect.

  • Has somebody laughed at a suggestion you made at work?
  • Have you been asked to leave a meeting because some confidential information was going to be passed along?
  • Are people going around you and speaking to your boss instead of you?
  • Do people listen to somebody else when you’ve given them that exact same information?

If any of these are yes, then you are probably suffering from a lack of respect.  How do you fix it?  The key is improving your credibility.  Here are some suggestions (and they follow one of my many triangle models:

Technical Skill Improvement:

  • Become an expert in your field
  • Assess the viability of what you know and practice now.  Find new areas to grow.
  • Read about and research your current field.  Look for the new trends.
  • Get an advanced degree or certification in your field.

Critical Thinking Skill Improvement:

  • Practice systems thinking.  Read Peter Senge’s book The Fifth Discipline.
  • Get used to looking at systems and processes rather than just results.
  • Quit finding blame and look for root cause instead.

People Skill Improvement:

  • Make a commitment to communicating clearer.
  • Take some personality assessments and figure out how you’re wired (so you can relate better to those around you.
  • Quit assuming everyone is out to get you.  Find something positive in others and build on it.

If you’ve neglected any of these areas, it’s possible you’ve built yourself a poor reputation.  The only way to fix it is to commit to improving it.  Don’t announce it, just do it.

Respect is hard to earn and easy to lose.  The list of the respectless is long, from Lance Armstrong all the way to the U.S. Congress.  Once lost, it’s hard to rebuild.  One thing for sure though, without making the effort to improve it, you’ll never get that respect that you desperately need.

Nobody Cares as Much as YOU do!

Who cares.A few years ago, I found myself stuck in a two-hour wait to clear U.S. Customs and Immigration at Montreal-Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport for my trip home after a week teaching workshops in Canada.  Normally this process goes quickly but the overhead pager warned passengers of the delay because of “Budget issues in the USA.”

When I finally made it through the pre-screen, then baggage scan complete with a thorough frisking (my titanium hip always sets off the metal detector), and into the Customs and Immigration area, I noticed that the staffing levels were the same as usual.  Why the huge delays?  These folks were moving at deliberately slow speed.  I fly through there quite a bit and it usually moves quick.  Agents were getting up and leaving, moving back to their post slowly. delaying getting to the next customer, etc.  It was then I realized that the current furlough meant a lot of these folks were losing income – much like all other U.S. Federal workers.  They were mad so they took it out on the passengers, many of whom were missing flights.

I spoke to a DoD manager recently and he told me they are being asked to track what is NOT getting done to show how devastating the furloughs are.  When tasks aren’t done, they can’t be given to anyone else to do.  They have to prove how the furloughs are hurting productivity.

Here’s the problem in both scenarios:  The customers and passengers don’t care about the furloughed workers’ problems.  They need to get their business done or get to their destination on time.  While we understand about the furloughs (my wife is a Fed who will be furloughed 11 days),  nobody should care about the customer, passenger, or patient as much as YOU should.

I used to do a fair amount of contract training.  I don’t anymore. Typically my fee on a contract workshop was about 20% of what the client is actually billed for.  I knew this and sometimes it bothered me since I’m doing 100% of the work.  On the other hand, the client didn’t know this and frankly, it’s irrelevant to them.  For these gigs, nobody should care as much as I do and I always gave 110% to that company.  I could of course “phoned it in” and gave minimal effort, but I took too much pride in my work.

I’m sure there are times Jimmy Buffett isn’t in the mood to do “Margaritaville” in a concert but he realizes for some folks a Jimmy Buffett concert is a “bucket list” item.  Nobody cares as much for his audience as he should…so he delivers “Margaritaville” like it’s the first time he’s ever sang it.

Year ago when my wife was the head of Materials Management at Bethesda Naval Hospital, she would take her purchasing agents up on the ward to meet the patients.  She’d tell them that when they felt worn out, unappreciated, or just lazy and didn’t push an order through, it was the PATIENT that suffered, not them, the doctors, or the nurses.  It made a huge impact on them.

This week, if you feel unappreciated, angry, apathetic, or just don’t give a crap, remember that it’s not about you.  Nobody should care about your customer, client, patient, or passenger as much as you do.  If you can’t handle that, it’s time to move on and do something different.

My experience in Canada that night hammered that home and I’ll not forget that lesson any time soon.  Nobody cares as much as you (or I) should.

What Do People Expect When They Experience YOU?

experience
A few years ago, I spoke at a conference in Poing (pronounced Po-ING) Germany speaking on leadership at a conference for printing companies.  I was really excited to travel there as I heard lots of great things about Germany.  From what everyone told me, here’s what I was to have expected:

  1. Neatness
  2. Order
  3. Punctuality
  4. Great food
  5. Great beer
  6. Nice, but not overly-emotional people

So what did I experience?

Neatness – the streets are meticulously cleaned.  No trash or cigarette butts on the ground.  People pick up after their well-behaved dogs.  What little graffiti I saw was more like artwork and less of gang-banging thugary type I saw when we lived in the DC area.  Freeways are pristine.  No potholes or raised bridge seams to ruin your alignment.

Order and punctuality – when the bus is schedule to leave at 8:30 AM, the bus is rolling at that time.  The doors have already closed.

Great food and beer – check.  Check.

Nice, but not overly-emotional people – Germans seemed friendly but certainly not overly-interested in getting into your business.

It was a great experience!   Kind of nice when what you’ve heard and what you expect all come to fruition.

What do people expect when they get the chance to deal with you?

I had a co-worker once who, without fail, called in sick on the Tuesday after a three-day weekend.  We expected it.  Nobody gave Cindy a task with a deadline for that day.

My grandmother was always on time, if not early for any family event.  She planned months in advance.  We always knew Grandma Jean would be on time.

When people hear your name, what do they associate with it?  Is it positive or negative?

In a way, YOU are a brand.  People have expectations of you.  When people buy a Mac, they expect to be dazzled and have the thing last forever.  They are usually correct.  When people buy a PC, they expect it to last about a year or so and then get bogged down with viruses and spyware and have its performance slow to a crawl.  They are usually correct.

It’s all summed up in the brand.

I’d like to think when people contract with me for a workshop, they expect to be informed, entertained, and impressed.  I work hard to deliver that experience.  That’s my brand.

What’s your brand?

If you’re not sure, why not take some time this week to ask some trusted advisors who will tell you the truth?  If you like the answers they give, then think of strategies to grow that brand.  If the feedback is negative, better start working on fixing that brand!

Preparing for Creativity

Brain Drain on Warning Road Sign.Have you noticed the lack of creativity in Hollywood?  This year’s new movie list makes it pretty obvious that Hollywood is running out of original ideas.  We are regularly served sequels of existing movies or the latest trend of “rebooting” a franchise, which means there are now multiple generations of Spiderman, Superman, The Incredible Hulk, etc (Which also shows a lack of creativity since these superheroes were popular back when I was a kid, in the 70s!)  Of course during the previews of these movies, you’ll be see the list of sequels that will be offered during the Holidays and then there’s that ONE BIG movie that will premier next Summer, which will either be a sequel or a somewhat original idea that will lend itself to a slew of sequels.  Hollywood is running out of original ideas (and has been for some time now.)

What about you?

If you’re feeling a bit stale and uncreative as I’m starting to, maybe it’s time we cultivate some new ideas.  Much like the process of planting a garden, cultivating new ideas requires some steps.  Here’s the first:

Create some space to grow the new idea.

The first thing we do every year is dump the old soil out of last year’s planters and put in some new soil.  Then we carefully created a space for the small plants.  Very simple.

Our minds are a bit like those planters.  Without some type of stimuli, we have a tendency to get stale.  I was finding less and less time to do some thinking because in my case the “soil” in my brain was challenged less by books and more by Facebook.

So I decided to cut back on Facebook.  I dumped a bunch of people off the list and just cut it back to family and immediate close friends.  I think I just got tired of reading my friends’ posts that either passive-aggressively complained about people:

“It would sure be nice if people would just hold onto their coats instead of stuffing them in the overhead bins like a bunch of monkeys”

…or just bragged about stuff:

“Excited to be working with a new client in Hawaii this week!”

Then I realized I was no different.  I was using Facebook to brag, complain, or just be nosey about what my friends were up to.  Every time I had a moment to pull out my phone, I was checking my Facebook app.  Then I’d look around and see other travelers with their nose in their phone doing the same.  Nobody talks to anyone anymore, the phone is an excuse to be left alone.  When I thought about it, I realized the “soil” in my brain had no capacity for new thoughts.  So I deleted my account and removed the app.

It was hard at first.  I had this massive urge to remove my phone from its holster and log in.  I suddenly didn’t have the account to check out when I was writing curriculum and needed (or thought I needed) a distraction.

I’m better now.  With the Facebook brain drain tempered, I’m more productive.  I installed the Kindle app on my phone now and will use the time I stand in line to read a book.  There is a new-found urge to forge REAL friendships and cultivate them in ways other than just “Likes” and photos of cats with silly captions.

This week, take a look at what your capacity for growth is.  Maybe it’s time to remove some of that old soil and prepare to plant something new.  I’m working on it.  Will you join me?

Even MORE Ways to Cultivate New Ideas

HabaneroCultivating new ideas is really a three-step process.

First:  Clear some space to make room for growth

Second: Feed your brain

Third:  Ask the right questions to draw out the ideas

Which leaves just the final step:  Figure out what to do with all those ideas.

Habaneros are my favorite pepper.  We grow them in our garden every year.  Now if you’ve ever tasted a Habanero, you know that they must be used in moderation.  The one time I made the mistake of taking a bite of one, I suffered the consequences of a severely scorched palate for hours.  Once while sitting in the Senor Frog’s bar in Nassau, I saw this poor drunk kid enter a “Jalepeno” eating contest not realizing the pepper he was slipped was a Habanero.  He didn’t show his pain at the time, but I’m sure the hangover he had the next day was memorable.

So in my case, there are four uses for the cultivated Habaneros:

  1. Discard the ones that aren’t perfect.
  2. Keep some for use right now.
  3. Pickle a bunch for use throughout the winter and spring.
  4. Give some to friends and neighbors.

Your new ideas can be managed in similar fashion:

Take a look at the massive amount of new ideas and discard the ones (for now) that are too expensive, impractical, or just too outlandish to use right now.

Grab the best ones and put them into use right now.  Think about who you need to influence to get the ideas approved and surround yourself with the expertise needed to get them moving.

Develop a database of some sort (I use Evernote) to keep those good but not ready for implementation ideas readily accessible.  I keep a weekly blog and have now since 2007.  There are some weeks I have more than enough ideas and so I’ll store the extra ones for the weeks where I just draw a blank.

Give some of those ideas away.  If you’re mentoring someone, this would be a good opportunity to offer an idea and let your mentee run with it.

Creativity seems to be in shorter supply these days.  Don’t allow yourself to follow this trend.  Take time this week to put your strategy in action to cultivate new ideas

MORE Ways to Cultivate New Ideas

86 MTI0Ny1TRUNPTkQuanBnCultivating new ideas is the cure for putting forth a string of retreads.  We’ve seen it in Hollywood and you’ve probably seen it in your own organizations.  It’s not easy – hence the shortage of new ideas, but with a few personal changes, you can certainly come up with something new.

With the first two steps of clearing out space and feeding your brain, you can then set out coming up with your new ideas.  Here are some suggestions for you to get started:

Challenge assumptions: Most of us start with a standard set of assumptions.  It could be this is keeping your grounded in like solutions.  Take a moment to try different ones. (Maybe my audience has already heard this topic.  How could I say this differently and tie the concept to a modern problem?)

Reword the problem: Stating the problem differently often leads to different ideas. To reword the problem, look at the issue from different angles. You might come up with new ideas to solve your new problem.  (What happens if we don’t solve this? vs. we just can’t seem to solve this problem)

Use a  different media: We have many different ways to process information but most of us use the same ones consistently.  Rather than verbalizing the issue, try drawing a picture, create a poem, or put something together using modeling clay.  Sometimes these oddball processes yield different results because we’ve broken our normal pattern.

Mind Map your ideas: Put a key word or phrase in the middle of the page. Write whatever else comes in your mind on the same page. Begin a free-flowing brainstorm that will link connections to that central issue.  This is my personal favorite.  It NEVER fails to deliver new ideas and perspectives.

Get someone else’s perspective: Ask different people what they would do if faced with your challenge. Try to pick people who have no clue about your industry.  Use a group of teenagers and tell them that all ideas are “on the table” and up for use.  Try to explain your problem to someone who has no prior experience with your industry such as a senior citizen.  These different perspectives plus the act of explaining your issue in new ways should help you get new ideas.

Don’t get discouraged if these methods don’t produce results.  You may have to go through the first two steps and make SURE you’ve created space and fed your brain.  No matter what, please don’t allow yourself to go into those old familiar grooves you’ve already gone through.  The idea is to cultivate – and that takes work!

How to Cultivate New Ideas

Cultivate an ideaCultivating new, creative ideas is analogous to planting vegetables.  The first step is to clear out some space in some new soil.  It often means getting rid of the old.  I suggest we look at what’s really useless in our life and not adding value and getting rid of it. Only then will we have space for something new.

Even when we start seeing vegetables starting to grow in the garden,  the work isn’t over.  We have to make sure we’re taking care of those young plants.

Coming up with new ideas is more than just removing junk (like some social media and other time-wasters) from our lives.  We have to add water and fertilizer, which for our purpose is new, positive, practical, and useful information.

Reading:  I’ve always been a fan of reading.  A few years ago I even did a reading challenge with subscribers to read one book per week for the year.  I only made it to 33 but really learned a lot.  I kind of slacked off this year but now have finished 14 books so far.  Lots of good ideas in there!  If you think reading doesn’t benefit you, just watch a documentary where prison inmates are interviewed.  Some of them sound like college professors even though most never finished high school.  How?  All they do is read!  Spend your day reading and you’ll receive a great education.

Watching:  Normally I turn the TV on every evening. I find it easy to get hooked on programs such as CSI, Bones, House, Dallas, and even silly shows like The Big Bang Theory.  This past week though we started watching programs on National Geographic and on Smithsonian.  There was a fascinating program on the other night on how the brain makes decisions.  This is relevant information I can apply to my business.  Other than providing good video clips for my workshops, The Big Bang Theory gives me as much mental nutrition as a pork rind.  Just this week while on the road, I actually made an effort to turn the TV off completely.  In just two days I’m amazed at how I’m able to focus on working on projects!

Listening:  I like to work with music on in the background.  Last week I experimented with listening to different types of music on my Spotify channel.  I tried soft techno and even classical.  Made a big difference in my ability to focus as I finished up some projects.

So enough about me.  What are you doing to fill in the gaps in your mind?  Now that you’ve removed the junk, I hope you’re not adding more junk back in.  New and creative ideas don’t just appear.  They take work.  So far this process is working for me. I hope you’ll give it a try too!