The Nedlog Rule TM

Photo of sign that says "Fatface"
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Do you live by the Golden Rule?

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

That’s great. It’s a nice starting point. It’s a good concept for how we should treat other people.

Here’s the problem: We forget to apply it to the person in the mirror.

How do you talk to yourself? If you spoke to other people the way you speak to yourself, would have have any friends?

I am a member of Toastmasters. Maybe you’ve heard of it. It is best known as a place to learn to speak in public. It is much more than that, but that’s enough for now.

At a typical Toastmasters meeting, a number of people will stand and give a prepared speech. For each of these speakers, another person takes notes and provides an evaluation with the goal of providing the speaker helpful ideas on how to improve.

Being an evaluator is just as important as being a speaker. One of the concepts we are taught is the sandwich technique. When giving an evaluation, start with something positive (something the speaker did right and should continue doing), then something that could be improved, then end with another positive.

This same sandwich technique is often used in annual evaluations at work. Managers are typically taught to start and end with positive reinforcement, while delivering the areas where improvement is needed in between these positives.

While the sandwich technique is a good model, a more important aspect when providing feedback is to focus on the action or behavior rather than the person. Telling someone, “That thing you did was really stupid,” is far better than saying, “You are stupid.”

And yet, how do we tend to talk to ourselves? Rarely do we use the sandwich technique on ourselves. Worse, we tend to go straight to attacking the person (our self) instead of the action. “I am so stupid!”

That brings me to the Nedlog RuleTM. If you haven’t figured it out yet, “nedlog” is “golden” spelled backward. If you looked at the word “golden” in the mirror you’d see “nedlog”.

The Nedlog RuleTM:

“Do unto yourself as you would do unto others.”

Show yourself some love. Treat yourself with the same respect that you show to others.

Planting Seeds

Photo of wildflowers
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved

Have you ever wondered whether Johnny Appleseed went back to see what grew from the seeds he planted?

We’ve all heard the stories of Johnny Appleseed. Folklore has it that he spread seeds everywhere he went. Some stories say he created meticulous nurseries. Others suggest he strewed seeds randomly as he traveled along.

Seed planting is a powerful metaphor for leadership. Leaders are planting seeds constantly, whether they are aware of it or not. Sometimes the seeds are carefully planted with a specific outcome in mind. Sometimes it’s more like a person carrying a heavy burlap sack of seeds on their shoulder; the bag has a small hole in one corner; seeds are falling randomly as the person travels along their way.

In my career as a leader, there have been many times when I set out to plant seeds on purpose, to create a meticulous nursery. I had specific goals in mind for what I wanted to spring forth from the seeds I planted.

What I have found over the years is that the seeds that randomly fell from the sack were the ones that had the most impact.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Actions speak louder than words.” This is especially true when it comes to leadership.

No matter what we say or how fancy the animated graphics are on that PowerPoint presentation we use at our all-staff gathering, what we DO, how we BEHAVE, on a regular basis is what people will remember. Those are the seeds that will take root and grow.

Every once in a while, I hear from someone with whom I previously worked. They’ll say something to me that starts with, “You always said…”, or “You once told me…” and my initial reaction is, “I did?”

I enjoy these encounters, especially when what they took away was something that has been beneficial to them and/or others. Human nature being what it is, I tend to hear more of the positive stories than negative.

I recently received this text from a friend with whom I used to work:

I received the 1st quarter leadership award last week from our CEO. My team nominated me. Seems I’m making a difference in folks’ lives and careers. Sharing this not to boast but to let you know what a great mentor you are. Thank you.

I’d like to take credit for planting those particular seeds on purpose. But, I can’t, really. All I can do is turn around, realize that the sack I am carrying has a hole in it, and notice that some of what is falling has taken root to become something beautiful.

To be sure, there are things that have fallen out of my sack that did not grow into such a heartwarming result. I am sure there are people who could tell you about the weeds they have had to pull. For now, I will enjoy the good plants.

As a leader, you are always planting seeds. What’s falling out of your sack?

 

Better Together

Photo of 2 people blowing out candles on a cake
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Are you fiercely independent? Do you love doing things all by yourself?

Here’s a thought. Invite a friend to join you.

Confession time. I love doing things myself. I abhor asking for help.

Maybe this is a guy thing. Watch people burdened by a load of boxes enter a building. Chances are, you will see what I have noticed. A women laden down with a bunch of stuff, when approached, “Can I help you with that?” will more often than not say, “Sure.” A man in the same situation is far more prone to respond, “Nah, I’m good.” despite items falling off the stack they are balancing.

It is only over the last few years that I have learned the joy of asking for help. It is not the asking that I enjoy. It is the camaraderie that results in working on a project together.

My fierce independent streak has put me in dangerous situations.

For example… Several years ago, I purchased a large air compressor for my shop. We’re not talking about a nice portable unit that is meant to be moved. No, this is a full-scale, 5′ tall, behemoth typically used in a mid-sized production shop. (Why? Because I could. But, that is a different topic. )

The point is, it’s big. And quite heavy. When I bought it, it required 3 of us to load it into my van. Those other 2 people did not follow me home to help unload it. They had other customers to serve.

At home, I realized the folly of what I was attempting to do even as I was sliding it out of the van – by myself. I knew this could easily go wrong. In my head, I was already playing out the worst case scenario of being pinned underneath this thing, wondering whether I’d be able to hang on long enough to yell out to the mail carrier who was due to arrive sometime in the next hour.

OK, let’s be honest. It’s not an independent streak. It is shear stubbornness.

Obviously, since I am now telling the story, it worked out in the end. There were no trips to the emergency room.

I’d like to say I’ve learned my lesson. Don’t do stupid stuff. But, I’d be lying. I still get myself into dangerous situations. However, I am getting better at asking for help.

It is not avoiding danger that has helped me change. It is a realization that it’s more fun to do things with another person.

Just last night, I drove to a friend’s house to have him help me replace the side view mirrors on my truck. I could have managed it alone. Maybe.

The real reason I made the trip was to spend time with my friend. The side benefit was that the new mirrors are installed. Correctly. The first time. (My friend is an avid car repair hobbyist.)

What it has taken me way too long to figure out is the joy of treating projects not as a way to accomplish a task, but as a means to spend time with another human being. The task itself becomes secondary to the pleasure of the interaction.

Next time you find yourself laden with boxes, burdens, or tasks, reach out to another person and invite them to join you. You’ll both benefit.

You might or might not accomplish the task you originally set out to accomplish. Either way, you’ll enjoy the process more with the company of a friend.

Involved Detachment

Photo of blue sky through trees.
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

In one of the gyms I used to go to, there was a sign prominently displayed in the weight room that read, “Go heavy or go home.”

In another context, I frequently heard the saying, “Play to win or don’t bother playing.”

Each of these sayings has their place. If you are a naturally competitive person, then both of these probably strike you as being obvious. You likely feel wholehearted agreement.

One problem with these concepts is that in the wrong circumstances, they can induce substantial unnecessary amounts of stress.

Another issue is they might cause you to give up early. Maybe you look ahead toward the finish line, realize there is no way for you to win this particular race, and therefore stop trying. Give up on this one, move on to the next race, maybe you’ll have better luck there.

These sayings do not fully incorporate the level of influence factors beyond our effort have on the outcome. I’m not talking about making excuses when things don’t go our way. I am talking about accepting the reality that there’s often more involved in the decisions others make than simply the amount of effort that we put into trying to sway them one way or another.

I recently spoke to a group of recruiters for an organization. Their key metric is the number of people they are able to get to sign on the dotted line. The majority of their training is based on classic sales methodology, with “getting to the close” being a key component.

The problem is that they were becoming overly obsessed with that metric of closing the deal. Each person they were recruiting was seen as critical to their success in their job as recruiter. When they were unable to seal the deal with a particular individual, they viewed it as failure. They took it personally. It was creating an enormous amount of stress on the individuals.

I can relate.

I have this same experience in my own business. I tend to view each prospective client as critical to the success of my business. When a prospective client tells me, “we’ve decided to go a different direction” (a frequently used phrase instead of simply saying, “no”) it is easy to take this personally. Being a one-person service-oriented business, the product I am selling is, essentially, myself. As a result, failure to close the sale takes on a high degree of personal rejection.

Do you enjoy rejection? I sure don’t.

The attitude shift that has helped me the most, and that I shared with this group of recruiters, is the concept of Involved Detachment.

What does that mean?

It means going heavy and playing to win… while detaching yourself from the outcome.

It means giving it your absolute best shot, doing all you can to convey your value proposition. And then once you’ve done that, let it go. You’ve done your part, now it is up to them.

This is still very much a work in progress for me. There are good days, and there are not so good days.

It is easy to view an opportunity as being impossible to win. As the level of the events at which I work has elevated, so has the level of the people I am being compared against for the time slot. While it is pretty cool to be considered alongside some of these people, it can also be intimidating.  I view many of them with such high esteem that it seems pointless to even bother submitting my proposal.

But, just as there are factors beyond my influence for which another person might be chosen, there are also factors beyond my control which cause a client to select me over the others being considered.

Got that? It is not my job to tell them “no”. There is a reason that they chose to contact me in the first place, to include me in their search.

My job is simply to understand as much as possible about the client’s goals, put forth what I have to offer as clearly as possible, do it well, and then let it go.

Where can you apply this concept in your life and work? In what areas are you being overly concerned with the outcome? Are you quitting before you even start?

Practice involved detachment.

Do your part. Do it well. Then let it go.

 

Mirror Mirror

Photo of dancers in studio
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

As a ventriloquist, I regularly practice in front of a mirror. My practice studio has a large one permanently mounted on the wall.

It is very helpful as I work on the character animation to be able to see how it looks by watching myself in the mirror. Each character needs to act and react, just like in a traditional play.

Sometimes, especially as I am developing a new bit, I will spend hours working on nuanced movement for delivery of a single line of dialog, looking for the precise motion to get the biggest reaction. If I have a joke that I know in my gut is a good joke, but it is not getting the laughter that I think it should, I go back to the mirror and work on the delivery, adjusting timing, phrasing, and gestures.

Dancers often practice in front of a mirror. The dance studio where my kids studied has a wall full of floor-to-ceiling mirrors. It was an essential tool for them to learn movement.

That wall of mirrors in the dance studio also has a curtain that can be drawn across the entire expanse. So does the mirror in my practice studio.

Why? Because at a certain point in the rehearsal process you need to shift from thinking of what is being reflected back on yourself and focus instead on what you are projecting to the audience.

You need to draw the curtain, turn around, and perform for the audience.

Many performers miss this critical transition. Mea culpa. Like many entertainers, I started performing as a way to get attention, to seek approval. The applause was the goal. It signified to me that I was doing something right, that I was valued.

I can tell you the exact moment when it dawned on me that I was spending way too much time looking in the mirror, seeking applause as a way of improving the reflection.

It was a game changer for me in my entertainment career.

More importantly, it was a game changer for the audiences I serve. Now when I walk onto the stage, my focus is entirely on them and what they are receiving rather than on what they are reflecting back.

This same concept applies to leaders. Some leaders are focused on the mirror. They stand looking into the mirror, with their team behind them. They see the team’s purpose as one of reflecting positively on the leader.

Perhaps you’ve worked for a leader like this. Perhaps you are one. It’s annoying.

A mirror can be a useful tool. It helps us develop our technique. The key is to realize that the mirror is not our target audience. We are not here to perform for ourselves. Entertainers need to perform for an audience. Leaders need to lead a team.

Use the mirror. Practice in front of it. Hone your technique. But, know when it is time to draw the curtain, turn around, and focus on the audience.

 

Exude Confidence

Justin Timberlake during Superbowl LII halftimeWhat image do you convey when you walk into a room? If you were able to watch yourself enter a meeting where you are in charge, what would you see?

I confess, I am a Justin Timberlake fan. But, even if you do not have the kind of JT bromance that I do, there is something to learn from his performance during halftime at this year’s Superbowl.

As always, there were critics who called the show “lame”, “mediocre”, and even “boring”. These critics were not watching JT’s face.

I challenge you to watch it again. This time watch through a different lens. Maybe even turn the sound off. Focus on his face. Here’s a direct link: https://youtu.be/2z3EUY1aXdY

Do you see it? Unbridled confidence, without a trace of arrogance.

When I watch JT perform, whether it is this halftime show, or the Netflix special of a previous concert, or perhaps someday actually attending a concert in person, what I most admire and feel drawn to is that absolute confidence that he belongs on that stage.

Coupled with that confidence is an air of welcoming you, the viewer, to come along for the ride. There is a sense of, “Hey, let’s have some fun together.”

Some performers display confidence, but there is also an air of arrogance about it. It’s more exclusionary. It’s more like, “I deserve to be here. I’m better than you. Watch me. Aren’t I great?”

This same attitude plays out in places beyond the stage. Think about how your boss, or others up the executive chain, walk into a meeting room. Do they treat you like a stereotypical Catholic School teacher, telling you to sit down and shut up? Or are they like JT – clearly in charge of the situation, but inviting you to be an active participant?

How do YOU behave in this situation? When you are the one in charge, do you lord it over people? Or do you maintain order while inviting participation?

Exude confidence. But, in the words of Han Solo, “That’s great kid. Don’t get cocky.”

 

Time out

Photo of flags on a flagpole
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

When is the last time you called a Time Out?

Like much of America, I’ve been watching a lot of football the past few days. It’s college bowl season. The concept of calling a time out struck me as something that has meaning far beyond football.

In football, the purpose of calling a time out is to give the team a chance to pause, reconsider their current strategy, revise it as needed, and sometimes just to give the players an opportunity to breath before the next play.

The week between Christmas and New Year’s Day is often one in which I call a time out – from work. It is a time to pause, reflect, and spend time with my family. Sometimes it is simply an opportunity to breath before launching into whatever is coming next.

When do you call a time out? Is your play clock running dangerously close to zero? Could you benefit from taking a moment to reconsider your current direction?

Give yourself a break. Call a time out. Then get yourself back into the game.

 

Tides

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

Have you ever spent an entire day at the beach?

You arrive early in the day, set up the beach chairs, plant the umbrella, and spread the towels. After lathering up with a good coat of sunscreen, you plop into the chair, crack open a book and watch the day go by.

Ah…

Thanks to my wife, I have come to love spending time on the beach. Writing this on a gray day in early December in Ohio, the draw of sunshine on a warm beach is especially appealing. My thoughts today are not about the sunshine, though, but about the waves.

There is something about the constant motion of the water that is incredibly soothing. And also a great metaphor for life and work.

Have you ever noticed the tides?

People often comment on “high tide” or “low tide” as if those are the peaks of activity or inactivity. If you’ve ever paid attention to the waves, you know that both high tide and low tide are when the water is the most calm. It is the in between times that the waves are the roughest.

And so it is with work.

I love work that comes in waves, or rather cycles of waves, like the tide. I love the onrush of a new project, the buzz of activity, the excitement of doing something new. And I love the lull at the completion of the project, the end of that cycle.

It is fun to play in the waves. And it is fun to float on the calm water.

What is not fun is when either of these goes on too long and you feel like the current cycle will never end. Riding waves is fun, unless they never end. Floating on the calm water is a nice break, unless the waves never kick up again.

Leaders must find a way to manage the flow. If the environment has no cycles, the leader must manufacture them. If it is always roiling waters with no calm periods, leaders must find a way to create periods of rest and calm. I can’t imagine an environment where it is always calm, with no waves, but if that is the case, the leader must manufacture ways to create waves.

If the environment is full of natural cycles alternating between waves and calm, the leader’s job is to remind people that whichever phase they are in at the moment will change. The leader needs to encourage people to keep going through the rough waters, ensuring and reminding them that calm waters are coming. Likewise, when people are getting stir crazy during long periods of excessive calm, a good leader will remind the staff of what is on the way.

Next time you go to the beach, pay attention to the tides.

Enjoy the waves. Enjoy the calm. They’re both important parts of the cycle.

 

Sticks and Stones

Photo of sticks and stones
Photo copyright ©2017 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

Say it with me… Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.

Depending on where you grew up, you might have a slight variation on the ending. Any way you say it, the point is the same. When people call us names or say something negative about us, we are to move on and not let what others say rile us.

Eleanor Roosevelt expressed this in a different way:

“No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.”

I recently heard someone use this adage in a presentation. What immediately came to my mind was an additional ending.

Sticks and stones may break my bones and words may never hurt me, but your silence is killing me.

For me, I can handle criticism. I can deal with people telling me where I need to improve, even when it is done in a less than kind way. But, I can’t handle silence. For me, no response is far worse than the most scathing review.

In the words of Jeff Dunham’s character, Achmed, “Silence! I kill you!” For me, it is silence itself that is the killer.

Have you ever given someone a gift and heard nothing from them? I’m betting you assumed they hated it.

At work, have your poured your heart and sole into a project, then when it was completed the only thing you got was your next assignment?

Have you sent a carefully crafted email to someone and received no response whatsoever? Have you posted something on someone’s Facebook wall and waited in vain for them to click “Like”?

Where does your mind go in the absence of a response?

We all crave feedback. Sure, we prefer that feedback to be positive. We prefer praise over criticism. But, any feedback is better than no feedback.

Why? Because in the absence of feedback, most of us assume the worst. Our inner critic shouts, “They hated it. That sucked. You really screwed up that time. You’re going to be fired.”

Maybe you did screw up. Maybe you did disappoint. But, then again, maybe you didn’t. It is difficult to know in the silence.

My first job was working in a bicycle shop. Every bike we worked on was checked over by one of the two bosses. They even double checked each other’s work. The best response you could get was, “OK.” Not, “Good job.” Not, “You do good work.” Nope. The best you could get was, “OK.” I came to shoot for that response as my goal. But, even that “OK” was better than silence.

Are you with me? Do you have this same reaction to silence?

I wish I had great words of wisdom to share as to how to handle the silence and resist the temptation to assume the worst. I’ve got nothing. If you have thoughts on this, I’d love to hear them.

In the meantime, all we can do is to pay attention to when others are looking to us for feedback. Do your part to share honest feedback with them. Be overt in your thanks and appreciation.

Give others the gift of your input. The silence is killing me.

 

Back to the Beginning

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

Where did you get your start?

I recently had the opportunity to go back to where it all started for me as an entertainer. I did a show on the first stage I performed on as a kid. Several people in the audience had even been there for that first appearance approximately 45 years ago. While this show was a solo performance, that first time I was one of many acts performing as part of a youth talent show.

If you’ve ever experienced a youth talent show, you know that the range of talent being shared on that stage was quite broad. That didn’t seem to matter. I remember that every act was met with enthusiastic applause. Every one of us was made to feel like a star. We were applauded – loudly – for getting up there and giving it a shot.

What I do now would not be possible had it not been for the encouragement I received then.

Being back on that stage in that environment was deeply moving for me. It brought back deep-seated memories. It drove home for me the love and support I have been blessed to receive in so many areas of my life. It reminded me that I would not be where I am now had it not been for the encouragement of a countless number of people along the way.

Who has helped you on your journey? Who has been there with a kind word at the very moment when you needed it most? Who has been there for you to lend a hand, to help you up when you stumbled? Who has been there to cheer you on along your journey?

Where would you be now had they not been there to cheer you on?

Like that early talent show, I’m betting that many times you have been applauded even when your act kind of sucked. But, because of that applause, you kept going. It gave you the encouragement to continue. Perhaps you’ve kept going to the point where it (whatever it is that you do) no longer sucks. You might even be pretty darn good at it.

What if you had not received the applause before your act deserved it?

What a shame it would be if you had stopped. How sad it would be for those who now benefit from what you do well.

Take a moment to remember those who have cheered you on and encouraged you, even at a point in your development when it didn’t seem justified.

Now it’s your turn.

Who needs to hear your applause? Who would benefit from your words of encouragement and support?

Cheer them on. Applaud loudly.