Skip to content

Pardon My Dust

May 7, 2010

Dear Readers,

I’m excited to announce that a new blog design is in the works.  In the next week or so, I’ll be moving the blog to a new host and working on a completely new look.  I’m super excited about the change (as I told you here), but it could be a bit wonky for a while.    Althoug I hope to pull off the transfer without too much disruption, I probably will delay posting until the re-design is complete.  Thanks for your understanding, and please don’t go too far.   There will be a re-launch party once the new Everyday Bright is unveiled

Stay tuned!

Simon Says: Slow Down

May 5, 2010

An article in the May 2010 issue of the Harvard Business Review promises to identify “How to Keep Your Top Talent.”  This is a big issue these days, since many baby boomers are slated to retire in the next five to seven years, and there is serious concern about leadership shortages.  Not only that, but research performed by Martin and Conrad Schmidt at the Corporate Leadership Council suggests many “high performers” are looking for new jobs.

The authors go on to identify three critical attributes that allow one to trend current performance into future potential: ability, engagement, and aspiration.  While I have no argument with the first two attributes, the third is more insidious.  They  dub nearly a third of high performers as “misaligned stars,” individuals who have the ability and engagement but don’t aspire to the roles at more senior levels or don’t choose to  make the sacrifices require to perform those high-level jobs.  The assumption is that your performance directly correlates with your desire to move up in the company.    

Nor are these ideas isolated to the authors’ thinking. A friend of mine recently confided he was tired of spending so much of his time at the office instead of with his family.  He could lead a large group of people and drive spectacular results, and that, as it turned out, was his downfall.  When he told his boss he was happy to continue to work challenging problems, but wasn’t interested in promotion, he was informed that wasn’t an option.  He was too good to let “languish” in his current position.  His only choices were to continue moving up, spending even more hours in the office, or to leave all together.  He chose the latter.

Ironically, on their website, the Corporate Leadership Council defines aspiration as “the extent to which an employee desires job recognition, rewards, and advancement, as well as work-life balance.”  Based on my friend’s story, I can only assume they mean high performers aspire recognition and advancement at the expense of work-life balance.  Maybe that explains the other finding from their study: another 30% of high performers suffer from a lack of engagement.

With these kinds of assumptions of what constitutes a high performer, I think retention efforts are bound to fail.  And that’s too bad, because as I discussed in my linchpin post, we need high performers at all levels, not just senior management.  Maybe what this demonstrates is we’re already experiencing a leadership shortage–performance isn’t a factory line and employee development isn’t a marathon.

Share

Now Why Didn’t I Think Of That?

May 2, 2010

Every now and then, I come across a venture that’s wildly successful because of its simplicity.  These are the best kinds of finds because their enjoyment requires almost no effort or thinking on my part.  When you’re tired or feeling low, the last thing you want is to do some mental gymnastics to get to a better place.  

On the other hand, witnessing someone’s popularity by doing something simple can also induce a wee bit of jealousy.  It reminds me of the time I went to place called Fire It Up, where you can paint pre-made ceramic pieces and they fire it in the kiln for you.  I’d been walking around department stores, checking out their pitchers, coffee mugs and fish platters.  I’d turn to my husband and confidently say, “I could do that!” 

I could do that! (maybe)

 

Yeah, well, turns out making a really good platter is much harder than it looks.  I suspect the same is true for 1000 Awesome Things.  The concept is to highlight the things we too often take for granted.   Some of my favorites include the recent “picking up something that turns out to be a lot lighter than expected,” or even “finally peeing after holding it forever.”   These posts won’t solve big problems like bankruptcy or a miscarriage.   But if you’re crabby because you lost your car keys and subsequently missed an “important” meeting, this site is a good cure.  When the little things get you down, it’s only reasonable to ask them to prop you back up. 

I should warn you some of the posts creep towards sappy or the obvious (like “when a baby falls asleep on you”), but I’m willing to give it to him.  After all, I didn’t have to come up with 1000 awesome things, just one: “sharing someone else’s good idea.”  Seth Godin reminds us it’s not really jealousy we’re feeling anyway, but fear we won’t measure up.  And if Neil’s 1000 Awesome Things site teaches us anything, it’s that there’s plenty of goodness to go around.  

Photo courtesy of ccarlstead on Flickr 

Share

Happy Belated Earth Day

April 29, 2010

Okay, so I’m a week late.  I tend to treat Earth Day much like birthdays: something best celebrated in moderation every day, not just at a whiz-bang party once a  year.  The truth is I haven’t been very good at either model when it comes to Mother Earth, though not for lack of good intentions.  It’s kind of like when my Uncle teases me he’s going to enroll me in Telephone 101.  It’s not that I don’t want to call, I just kinda…get busy with other things.

Photo courtesy of John Haslam

Then I read another fabulous interview in The Sun magazine with Alex Steffen, author of the bestselling book Worldchanging: A User’s Guide for the 21st Century.  I haven’t read the book yet (I’ve, uhh, been too busy for that too apparently) but the interview did spur me to action, which is exactly what I think Steffen would want. 

Earth Pact 2010: Become A Vegcurious (also known as a Flexitarian).  Ever since one of my favorite authors, Jonathan Safran Foer, released his book Eating Animals, I’ve taken a hard look at the environmental impacts of my eating, not to mention the moral issues that eating meat presents an animal lover such as myself.  The article on being “vegcurious” referenced above says, “meat production has increased by 500 percent since 1950 to keep up with the American appetite for chicken, lamb, pork and beef.”  And I’m here to admit, I’ve been part of the problem, although I think Smashburger has some owning up to do too.

In a New Yorker review of Foer’s book, a comparison is made to Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma.  In the article, Pollan is described as an advocate of the “free range” movement, saying

[..]it’s too late for people to start worrying about eating animals. The problem with factory-farmed meat isn’t the meat; it’s the factory. The solution is to return animals to the sorts of places where they can graze and root and fly—or at least flap around—before being dispatched.

Foer disagrees, saying there simply isn’t enough “free range” to accommodate America’s carnivorous appetite.  Thus the apparent impasse: either one becomes a strict vegetarian/vegan or irreparably harms the earth.  Unless, of course, one considers the “radical” idea of becoming a flexitarian, someone who focuses on a vegetarian diet while allowing for occasional meat consumption.  What if everyone who wanted to eat meat just ate a lot less of it?  What if meat became more of a treat than a staple?  (Okay, turns out the idea isn’t very radical.  This guy got there at least a year before I did.)

I’m trying it.  I’m slowly incorporating vegetarian meals into our dinner line-up, since that’s where the idea of meat is most ingrained.  So far, it hasn’t been nearly as hard as I thought it would be, mainly because all the recipes I’ve tried have been just as delicious as their meat counterparts.  For example, try this Three-Bean Vegetarian Chili, which replaced the bean and sausage soup we used to make.  Or this woodsy Risotto with Porcini Mushrooms and Mascarpone.  To really round out things out, add Chipotle Bean Burritos and you’ve managed to fill half the week with terrific vegetarian options.

It may not be a solution, but it’s a start toward sustainability and compassion.  Making an Earth-pact that I’m actually in the process of pursing makes this the most successful Earth Day to date–even if I was a week late.  And as Steffen warns, the Earth won’t wait forever.

Share

Time Is Running Out

April 27, 2010

More poetry giveaways? Pick me! Pick me!

At midnight on April 30, the free poetry giveaway contest closes.  Have you entered the contest by leaving a comment here with your blog or email address yet?  Don’t delay–because the contest just got better.

Maybe because it’s Spring, or maybe because I honestly love sharing poetry, the point is: I’ve decided to sweeten the deal.  After all, the whole purpose of this contest is to increase exposure to the art and give publishers a much-needed shot in the arm, so to speak, by purchasing some books.   The way it works is this:  I’ll use a random number generator to select the first winner.  They can choose one of the following prizes:

  • An autographed copy of my book, Diary of a Cell, from Steel Toe Books
  • A copy of The Imaginary Poets from Tupelo Press
  • A one-year subscription to Beloit Poetry Journal, one of my favorites
  • One of five copies of my chapbook Explaining Relativity to the Cat from Pudding House Press

After the first winner chooses, I’ll keep selecting winners until all the prizes are claimed.  Hard to believe, but April just got better.

Photo courtesy of Jens Schott Knudsen

Share

How Many Linchpins Can You Fit In An Organization?

April 25, 2010

Let me start by admitting I haven’t (yet) read Seth Godin’s book Linchpin.  However, I’m a regular reader and big fan of Seth’s blog, so I feel like I understand his general aesthetic.  There are several interviews and reviews of the book (like here and here) if you want more background.  What caught my eye was a conversation on Cameron Plommer’s blog, EconApps, about whether or not it’s even feasible for everyone to be a linchpin.

To answer the question, you first have to understand what Seth meant by the term Linchpin.  In some ways it’s obvious–it’s the small piece that keeps the whole together.  From the publisher’s description,

Linchpins are the essential building blocks of great organizations: they invent, lead (regardless of title), connect others, make things happen, and create order out of chaos. They love their work and pour their best selves into it and turn each day into a kind of art – and, in today’s world, they get the best jobs and the most freedom.

So what if everyone took Seth’s advice and became a linchpin?  Paul MacPherson describes three main reasons he thinks this “call to action” may be impractical: 1) linchpins are harder to manage, requiring a larger management burden, 2) linchpins would dictate a higher salary and thus would burden an organization’s budget and profitability, and 3) by definition, linchpins are a rarity.

Let me respectively disagree with my friend Paul (who I really do know from the Brazen Careerist forums).  First, I don’t think Linchpins are harder to manage unless you have a communication problem.  Of course, many people do have difficulty clearly defining and communicating their expectations, but that’s not the Linchpin’s fault.  The beauty of linchpins is they are intrinsically motivated.  All you have to do is point them in the right direction and watch them go.  Paul also suggested linchpins might be more prone to combat, if I read him right.  But in fact, linchpins understand the best way to achieve goals is through collaboration (or at least respectful discourse, as Jim Collins suggests in Good to Great). 

Second, if everyone was a linchpin, you’d need far fewer workers.  In my experience, organizations often have to expand to make up for the dead wood they’re hauling around.  In many respects it would actually be cheaper to have an organization full of linchpins, not to mention a lot more exciting.  That doesn’t mean the workforce would reduce by half upon linchpin transformation–they’d just be more effectively resourced.  Many more businesses would succeed with a small cadre of linchpins.

The reason we’re so short of linchpins is not due to a fundamental limitation.   The problem, as Nicholas Lore points out in his book The Pathfinder, is the vast majority of people spend more time deciding what kind of car to buy or where to go on vacation than what to do with their lives.  They don’t know their strengths or even their passions.  They chase status, wealth, their parent’s affection, and even freedom from the “conventional.”  While those motivations aren’t likely to make you a linchpin, there’s nothing preventing someone from overcoming them either.

Much as I hate to admit it, I think my Dad had it right: find your “fire in the belly” and follow it.  I’m not talking about lightning-flash inspiration, but some good old-fashioned self-reflection and assessment.  Not only does a happier life await the linchpin, it may well be society can no longer to afford a sad collection of cogs. 

Share

Pick My Brain & Get Fit

April 23, 2010

For those readers coming over from PickTheBrain, welcome!  I hope you’ll poke around, leave a comment or two, and take a moment to subscribe.  As much as possible I try to make this a vibrant and thoughtful community–I hope you’ll join our conversation!

For regular Everyday Bright readers, you might be interested to know I have a guest post over at PickTheBrain that discusses tricks I learned as a writer that helped me get (and stay) fit.  Turns out the key is teaching yourself how to do a left brain/right brain switch.  As with many endeavors, creativity is the key.  Check it out!

Share