Creative Collaboration

Photo copyright ©2004 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

When you think of a creative person, do you immediately think, “artist”?

When you think of an artist, do you imagine them holed up, all alone in their studio?
We often associate “creativity” with “artist”. It is natural, then, to think being creative means being individualistic and working alone.
We rarely associate creativity with collaboration, which is all about working with other people. On the surface, these two concepts seem at odds with each other.
Collaboration implies practicality and goal orientation toward a shared objective.
Creativity implies artistry and individualism toward a personal vision.
Intense artistic creativity taps into our most deeply held beliefs, dreams, visions and even fears.
Sharing that creativity involves baring our soul. It leaves us exposed. It makes us vulnerable. Fearing this vulnerability, many people hide their creativity. They either resist creating altogether, or they never share their creations with anyone else.
Collaboration is all about sharing. It requires us to be open to feedback – both positive and negative.
Collaboration requires that we share our creativity, and thus forces us to make ourselves vulnerable.
So, how can these two words go together?
Let’s start by looking at the words themselves.
Creativity:
“the use of the imagination or original ideas, especially in the production of an artistic work.” – Google Dictionary
Collaboration:
“the action of working with someone to produce or create something.” – Google Dictionary
See what just happened there? The Google Dictionary definition used the word “create” in its description of collaboration. We might be onto something here.
Creativity cannot happen in a vacuum. Creativity is fueled by our environment and by sensory input. We observe. We watch. We listen. We absorb. Then we mix it all together and create something new.
Collaboration increases that sensory input. It adds to our environment. It provides alternate points of view, additional ideas. It fuels additional creativity.
When Collaboration and Creativity combine, we get what I call Applied Creativity – applying creativity to reach an objective, or to solve a problem. For me, that’s when things really get to be fun.
When we can work collaboratively, encouraging and fueling each others’ creativity, our own creativity increases, we get much better solutions and we have more fun doing it.
Go find a creative soulmate and collaborate. It’s fun!

Getting Ahead

Photo of kids running football
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

When you hear the term, “Getting ahead”, what is your first thought? Do you immediately compare your current situation to that of other people?

Don’t worry if you do. That would make you completely normal. And wrong.

Life is not a race. Neither is a career.

In a race, everything is relative to the others in the race. There are clear winners and non-winners (OK, losers).

I have nothing against competitive sports and the concept of winners and losers in that context. But, I have a big issue with viewing everything in life and work through the same lens. It’s not necessary.

If you have good things happen in your life, I am happy for you. Your success does not define my failure. Some people struggle with this concept.

What if we viewed the term, “Getting ahead” as purely a personal reflection? What happens to our general outlook if we define “ahead” in terms of our own history instead of some skewed view of a random person down the street or in the cubicle across the hall?

While I was never a golf fanatic, there was a time in my life when I played on a fairly regular basis. I played with many different people of wildly different skill levels. Regardless of skill level, I find golfers fall into two categories: those who compare their score against those they are playing with – winning is everything – and those who compare their score against their own scores on previous rounds. I have always found those in the latter category much more fun to be around.

The “comparing to myself” players who were better golfers than me (usually the case) took the time to coach me and help me with my abilities. They wanted me to be a better player. They realized it is more fun to be around golfers of higher skill levels, so if they could help me improve, future outings would be more fun for all.

Meanwhile, the “comparing my score to this foursome” players, regardless of skill level, were far more likely to cheat to improve their score and complain if I, in my efforts to simply learn the mechanics of the game and keep things moving, nudged my ball into a slightly better position. (What? Cheat? Me? Nah…)

When we treat “Getting ahead” as purely a personal assessment, we are more apt to reach out and help others around us. We realize life is not a zero sum game. Others do not need to lose in order for us to win. It’s a heck of a lot more fun to hang around others who are good at their game. If we can help others around us improve, it’s more fun for us to play together and everyone wins.

Go on, get ahead.

Roll the Credits

Photo of kids celebrating
Photo copyright ©2004 David J Crone. All rights reserved

There are two types of movie goers: those who sit through the credits at the end and those who don’t.

Which one are you?

My wife and I are credit sitterthroughers. (That’s a real word. Look it up.) We are often the last ones out of the theater, sometimes soliciting glares from the cleaning staff waiting to do their jobs.

Some movies include fun things mixed into the credits, e.g. bloopers, outtakes, or teaser clips for future movies. Also, the occasional made-up title or name thrown in just for fun. Pay attention to the credits of a Monty Python movie, for instance.

While those are fun, that’s not why we stay.

I am fascinated by the long litany of roles listed at the end of major motion pictures. Hair stylists. Assistant to Mr. Clooney. Caterers. Mustache wrangler.

My wife is fascinated by the names. As a writer, she finds the credits to be a great source of names for characters to use in her own writing.

When I watch the list scroll past I am struck by many thoughts. What constitutes enough contribution to be included in the credits? Who keeps track of them all? Which of those people was the credit roll list keeper? Is that an official movie making job title? How much does it pay? What is a “best boy“?

One of my most arduous tasks in the corporate world was to create the list of all who contributed to a project so that they could be recognized upon successful completion. This came easily for some projects. Others were so complex, spanning so many departments, over so many months, that we would miss a few people. I used to joke that creating the list of all who contributed was harder than the project itself.

And yet… It is so vitally important. Not to that project. To the next one. It’s always about the next one.

The point of the credit roll at the end of a successful project is to plant the seeds of enthusiasm for participating in the next project. The anticipation of being recognized is far more powerful than the recognition itself. Conversely, the negative impact of missing someone as part of the recognition at the end of a project is far more damaging than the positive impact to those you remembered. Getting that list right is arduous, but worth it.

Starting a big project? Start your list NOW. Pay attention. Keep track. No contribution is too small.

This isn’t about “everyone gets a trophy.” It’s about giving people their moment in the spotlight, letting them know that you noticed them. Be generous in your recognition and praise.

Roll the credits.

 

Don’t Wait Until You’re Dead

Image of tombstone
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved

What will be on your tombstone?

The one in the image above jumped out at me for its utter simplicity. (In case you can’t see the photo, the inscription says, “C.L. Died 22 Aug 1783”.) Perhaps C.L. didn’t leave behind enough funds to carve additional letters into the stone. Or, perhaps that’s all that needed to be said. I prefer to believe it was the latter.

What message will you leave behind when you are gone?

A friend of mine reacted to last week’s post about Admiration vs Jealousy, sharing with me that he found out that he was admired and respected by someone only after that person died. The revelation meant the world to my friend as he held this person in equally high regard. That got me thinking.

Who do you admire? Who do you respect? Have you told them?

As it turns out, I admire this particular friend of mine. So, when he shared his comments with me, I took that opportunity to let him know it. He was touched.

How does it make you feel to know that someone admires and/or respects you? If feels pretty good, doesn’t it? Why, then, do we not share our feelings of admiration more readily?

Don’t make those you appreciate wait until you’re dead to find out. Pick up the phone. Send them a card. Shoot them a quick text message. You don’t need to make a big deal about it. Simply be earnest. You can be specific, such as, “I respect you for the way that you…” Or, “I admire you for the way that you…” Perhaps you might tell them that you look up to them, that you find them to be inspiring. The important thing is to let them know.

Let me start. I appreciate YOU for reading this blog. I appreciate the comments, the encouragement and the challenges to my words. I hope that you find some value here along the way. [Note: Comments on the blog itself are disabled because it’s too much effort to ward off the auto-bots and other nefarious attempts to use my blog as a platform from which to attack others. But, email comments are always welcome as are comments left on the various social media platforms where this gets published.]

As for my tombstone, I hope that I will have said the things that needed to be said while I was alive, making any words on the stone superfluous.

 

Admiration or Jealousy?

Photo of kid in Superman costome
Photo copyright ©1970 John R Crone. All rights reserved.

Who are your heroes?

As a kid, my favorite superhero was Superman. I loved the original TV show starring George Reeves. I also loved the Batman series with Adam West. But, for pure hero worship, it was always Superman.

It’s good to have heroes. It’s good to have people we respect and admire, people who inspire us to be better than we are.

Who do you look up to with honor and respect? That’s admiration.

Who do you look at and think, “Why do they get to be there? I could do that. That should be me.” That’s jealousy.

It is easy for these two aspects to cross over, for one to become the other.

I think a key difference is that when we admire someone, we recognize the work they put in to achieve their place. We recognize that we are not there (yet) because we have not (yet) applied the same amount of effort.

Or, as in the case of my love of Superman, we simply admire them for who they are with the full realization we’ll never be that awesome, no matter how cool we look in a cape and boots.

When we are jealous of someone’s accomplishments, what we are really doing is seeking shortcuts and excuses. We think they got there by some stroke of luck. We think they got something we deserved.

Admiration is a good thing. It can drive us to work harder, or differently.

Jealousy is a killer. It causes us to feel hopeless. It justifies endless hours on the couch watching “reality” shows. It justifies eating that big bowl of ice cream and caramel corn in an attempt to numb our fears and self doubts. It keeps us from getting the exercise that would make us feel a whole lot better than cramming pointless calories into our mouths. It keeps us from expending that little bit more effort toward achieving our goal.

Admiration gives us energy. Jealousy sucks the energy out of us.

Jealousy is a zero sum approach to life; a sense that there is only so much to go around and we’re not getting our fair share.

Admiration embraces a life of abundance. It’s the Doritos approach: “Crunch all you want, we’ll make more.

Identify your heroes. Admire the hard work and effort they put in to get what they have earned. Use that as motivation to get what you desire.

Beware allowing that admiration to become jealousy. When the work gets hard, it’s not time to throw up our hands and declare it can’t be done. No. It’s time to double down. Do one more push up. Write one more line of code. Write one more paragraph in your book. Make one more phone call to a prospective client. You’ve come this far. Keep going.

Be worthy of admiration.

 

Pain

Photo of kid holding a tooth
Photo copyright ©1998 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Change can be painful. So can maintaining the status quo.

Do you still have your wisdom teeth? I still have mine. Every dentist I have been to as an adult has suggested that I have them removed. “Why? They’re perfectly good teeth.”, I would ask them. “Because it’s hard for us to clean back there.”, was always the answer. In other words, they wanted me to have my wisdom teeth removed for their benefit, not mine.

My standard response to their pleas has always been, “I’ll have my wisdom teeth removed when they are more of a problem for me than for you.”

Guess what? We’re there. As I type this, I am in immense pain from an issue with my wisdom teeth. I am slated to go see my dentist later today and I can’t wait. I am ready to say, “Yank those suckers out of there! Whatever! Just make the pain stop. Please!”

Why have I put this off for so long? Let me tell you a little story.

Like many people, I had braces as a kid. Unlike most people, my orthodontist created a plan to make room for my wisdom teeth to come in rather than set the expectation of having them removed later. To do this, he removed 4 teeth in the front portion of my mouth and moved everything forward. These were my eyeteeth on top and corresponding teeth on the bottom. That sounds strange looking back, but it made sense at the time. One of the eyeteeth was impacted and needed to come out anyway.

The result of this procedure 40 years ago is that I still have my wisdom teeth. The process of having those other 4 teeth removed and years of orthodontia to close the gap to make room for the wisdom teeth to come in was such an ordeal, I have been stubborn about any suggestion to have those wisdom teeth removed. Plus, they haven’t bothered me before.

To have my wisdom teeth removed would be to suggest it was a mistake to have gone about this in the way it was done originally. Admit a mistake? Not me!

Where in your life or career are you making this same kind of choice? Where are you resisting making a change because to do so would feel like you are admitting to a mistake? Where are you resisting a change because of how much effort you put forth to get to where you are right now? Is someone you know suggesting you make a change and you resist because that change is more for their benefit than yours?

Which is more painful, staying in your current situation or making a change?

For most of us, the pain of continuing the current behavior exceeds the pain we anticipate encountering in making the change.

The reality is, having the dental procedure I did when I was a kid was the right choice AT THAT TIME. The choices you have made that have you in the situation you are in right now were likely the right choices AT THAT TIME.

Each day we need to revisit the situation and decide whether staying where we are is still the right choice AT THIS TIME.

For me, that means more dental work, as soon as possible. I am ready to make that change. What does it mean for you? What’s your pain level? Is it time to make a change?

 

Skills Gap

Image of lobster cages
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Are you having trouble finding people with the right skills for your posted job openings? You’re not alone.

I continue to read article after article about companies and hiring managers complaining about their challenges in finding “qualified candidates” for open positions.

Here’s a thought. Maybe you’re not qualified to be a hiring manager.

Yes, I just said that.

Look at your own career. Give it a good serious look. How many different positions have you held? If you’re reading this blog, I’m guessing it’s been more than one. Make a list. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Don’t just count different companies. Include changes within a company when you had a significant change in job responsibilities. You can skip promotions within the same job family (adding “senior” to your title, or changing the classification from “I” to “II”). But, do include significant changes in responsibilities, such as Manager to Director or VP, and moving divisions where the fundamental aspects of the job are significantly different.

Got it? Good. Now, using a 5-point scale, beside each position, give yourself a TRUE ranking of how qualified you were for that position on DAY ONE. Not a year later. Day one, when you walked in the door to start that job. Be honest.

Scale: 1=Not qualified, what the heck were they thinking? 2=No experience in this specific area, but have other skills that can apply with a bit of training. 3=Some specific experience, understanding of general concepts, need help with specifics of this job/company/department. 4=Confident. Hit the ground running with some room for growth. 5=Subject matter expert, same job new place.

How’d you fare? How many 5’s did you get? Any 1’s? Just a guess, but I’ll bet you had mostly 2’s, a couple 3’s, and maybe even a 4.

My career has been full of 2’s and 3’s. I had one 4. And that 4? I walked in the door thinking I was a 5. I was wrong.

When I read these articles it is clear that these hiring managers are complaining because they only want to hire 5’s. And yet how many of these people rate a 5 themselves? None. Not a single one of them. I say that with complete confidence. Because if they were truly a 5 as a hiring manager, they wouldn’t be whining about a lack of qualified candidates – they’d be CREATING their own pool of qualified candidates.

I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again (and again, and again…) When it comes to finding qualified candidates, hire for ATTITUDE and APTITUDE. Train for everything else.

Now go out there and find yourself some great 2’s and 3’s.

I’ve Got a Golden Ticket

Photo of Powerball Lottery ticket

If you’ve seen the movie, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, or read the original book, “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory” by Roal Dahl, then you know about the contest to find a Golden Ticket. You might even recall the song, “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket“.

In this song, Grandpa Joe pines away with the lyrics:

I never had a chance to shine
Never a happy song to sing
But suddenly half the world is mine
What an amazing thing
‘Cause I’ve got a golden ticket

Before the Golden Ticket, Grandpa Joe did not get out of bed. He felt he had no reason to. Then, all of a sudden, because of that ticket, he sees possibilities. He gets out of bed, sings and dances around the room. It’s a happy day.

This book was originally published in 1964. Today we have a similar concept to the Golden Ticket. It’s called Powerball.

Admit it. You know you’ve wondered what it would be like to win the big jackpot. How would your life change if you won $447 million dollars like the one lucky winner did on June 10, 2017?

I know you’ve joked about, “When we win the lottery…” We use that phrase often in our household. It’s usually followed by, “It would help if we bought a ticket.” So, recently, I did. The jackpot hit $375 million and I thought, what the heck. Let’s have some fun.

When I buy a ticket (a rare occurrence), I go all in. I put the ticket up on the bulletin board in our kitchen. I actively contemplate what we would do if we won. We talk about it. I write about it in my journal. It inspires a blog post. (Did I just make that ticket tax deductible?) We play lots of “what if” games. We dance around the house singing, “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket”. Hey, if you’re going to play the game right, you have to believe that your ticket could have the winning numbers. You have to go all in.

After the initial excitement dies down, we realize we wouldn’t really want to win that huge jackpot. Sure, it’d be fun to always travel by private jet, to have a vacation home (or two), to buy a new sports car and build a garage to hold it. For a while.

But, you know what? None of these extravagant purchases would make life any better. It would only make it different. When we get past the rush, the burden of dealing with a jackpot of that size becomes palpable.

That’s when the game changes. We start playing another game where we contemplate: if we could define our own jackpot, how big would it be? From there, we start thinking about what changes we could make that would allow us to achieve our more realistic desires without the benefit of a winning lottery ticket.

You don’t have to wait for a Golden Ticket. Chance are, you really can have the life you dream about if you make the choices and take action steps needed to get you there. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it’s there. It is possible.

Of course, if that dream involves winning a huge jackpot, be sure you buy a ticket.

 

Lost at SEA

Photo of sailboat
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be lost at sea? I’m willing to bet you have been. You might even be there now. Lost, adrift, with no idea where you are, how you got here, or where you are going.

I’m not talking about finding yourself all alone on a sailboat with no land in sight. I am referring to a different type of sea – Someone Else’s Agenda.

There can be comfort in fulfilling someone else’s agenda. We know what we should be doing. We get to simply show up and follow directions. Do this, do that, collect a paycheck, go home, repeat.

Often, though, when we get totally sucked into someone else’s agenda, we wake up one day to realize we have no idea where we are, how we got there, or which direction we should head next to reach our goals. We might not even know what our goals are anymore. They’ve been tossed overboard while we were lost at sea.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with following someone else’s agenda. For most of us, riding on someone else’s boat is a great way to get where we are going. The problem arises when that ship is not going where we want to go. By the time we realize this, it can be difficult to get off.

Take some time to look around. Is the ship you are on still going the direction you wish to travel? Yes? Super! Steady on. Full steam ahead.

If not, did the ship change course? Or is it you that has set a new destination? Either way, it’s up to you to take corrective action. Do it now.

Here’s to smooth sailing and following YOA – You’re Own Agenda.

 

Building Castles

Photo of the Great Hall at Stirling Castle
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

I just returned from a trip to the UK. While there, we toured a number of castles. One of those was Stirling Castle in Scotland. The photo above is the Great Hall.

The main stories we heard during our visit to Stirling Castle were about King James VI of Scotland, who later became King James I of England.

What struck me in the stories was how much effort King James put into validating his right to rule. Much of the architecture and decorative elements of the castle were intended specifically to demonstrate that he was the rightful ruler.

How much time and energy do you devote to validating your right to lead?

I have certainly worked for people who spent an inordinate amount of time justifying their right to be in the position they were in. These are often the people who get tied up in titles, seating charts at meetings, and other trivialities that distract from doing the real work at hand.

I get it. If you are a King who came to power by  conquering, you probably do need to expend some amount of energy telling people you belong there. You really do need to worry about people who would like to cut off your head.

How many of you can honestly say that your life is in danger if people do not accept you as their leader? How much time are you wasting to make yourself feel safe?

Here’s a thought. Instead of working to ensure your own safety and well-being, try working to ensure the safety and well-being of those you lead. Do that and you will be the beloved king who others willingly rally around to defend.