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?

 

Make Someone Mad Today

Photo of choices at a bakery
Photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved

When is the last time a choice you made resulted in making someone else mad? Downright, name calling, temper tantrum throwing, angry.

Did you enjoy it?

Probably not. If you did, I’d be concerned.

Most of us do not enjoy making other people angry. More accurately, most of us do not enjoy it when other people are mad at us.

Right there, the last word in that previous paragraph, is the issue. “Us.” It’s all about us. We dislike making other people upset because of how it reflects on us. We want other people to like us. We want to be loved.

We seek approval, affirmation. If someone is mad at me, I must have done something wrong. Right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

When is the last time you were angry? Blood boiling, head throbbing, ready to punch something, angry? What was it about?

I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that, ultimately, it involved you not getting your own way on some issue.

In those instances, I am also going to guess that once the dust settled, after some time had passed, once you’d had the opportunity to look at things from a broader perspective, you were able to see that maybe the issue, decision, statement, whatever it was that set you off, was the “right” thing. You still might not be happy about it, but you could see it was the best choice at the moment. Even if you were not able to say, “I was wrong,” you were likely able to say, “You were right.”

Leaders are often put into a position of making decisions that are unpopular. Sometimes these decisions make people downright angry.

Many times, the level of anger that results from an unpopular decision comes down to how the decision was made and/or is communicated. That is a deeper topic for another time. For now, let’s focus on the willingness to make a decision regardless of its popularity.

One of the guiding principles taught to me for making difficult choices as a leader is the 5 year rule. When we look back on this decision 5 years from now, will we still see this as the right choice?

The exact amount of time we project into the future isn’t all that important. Although, it should be long enough that you are beyond hurt feelings of individuals who are going to be impacted by the choice.

If we allow an unwillingness to upset people to stymie our ability to make a decision, we have failed as leaders. In the words of Neil Peart in the Rush song, “Freewill”,  “If you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice.

Do take the impact decisions will have on people seriously. Weigh the costs and benefits. Understand the full impact of the decision. Then make the choice. Even if it makes someone mad.

As a final thought, I leave you with this old groaner of a joke:

Johnny: Why are you so sad?
Billy: We shot our dog.
Johnny: Was he mad?
Billy: Well he sure wasn’t happy about it!

Watch, Do, Teach

Stylized photo of water
Photo copyright ©2011 David J Crone. All rights reserved

What phrases stick in your mind?

Here’s one I heard when I worked at OhioHealth: Watch one, Do one, Teach one.

The person who taught me this phrase explained that this philosophy was engrained in her as a nurse. To fully learn a new procedure, you watch it being done, you do it yourself, and then you teach it to someone else.

That last step is critical. It is what separates common practitioners of any craft from the masters. It is where most of us stop short.

Think about it. If you are going to teach something, there is a level of expectation that you know the material. It forces us to raise our game. We must have the confidence in our skills if we are to teach others.

I believe that is why so few of us teach; we lack the confidence in our own skills or knowledge. That is a shame. There are many people with much to give, who hide behind a cloak of fear.

A clear benefit to teaching others is that we learn more ourselves. One of  my friends in college taught classes at another school. He was not the smartest person in our own classrooms. But, he was a good teacher. His own struggles as a student helped him as a teacher because he could relate to his students’ challenges. He shared with me how much he was learning by teaching. He also shared his joy in receiving high marks from his students.

You don’t have to be a master of the material to teach. Some of my most memorable teachers in school were those who, rather than spewing forth their vast knowledge from on high, invited us to join them in their own journey of exploration on the subject. Those shared explorations were far more interesting than sitting through boring lectures.

Now it’s your turn.

Watch one. Do one. Teach one.

(Side note: I take this concept of teaching seriously. I now offer one-on-one coaching for speakers and entertainers who want to better connect with their audiences. If you want your time in front of others to be more powerful, give me a call.)

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.”

 

Seeking Approval

Photo of dog at top of staircase
photo copyright ©2018 David J Crone. All rights reserved

What are you waiting for?

What is holding you back from taking the steps that you know you need to take to get what you want?

One of my dogs, Westley, loves to be with people. When there are people in the house, he goes crazy if he can’t be in the same room. If you move from one room to another, he will follow you.

The problem is that he doesn’t like stairs. My office is in the basement. When I head to my office, he will stand at the top of the stairs and whine. And whine. And whine. Until I stand at the bottom of the stairs and coax him to come down. Without that urging, he will stand there and continue to whimper.

He knows he wants to be down in the basement where I am. But, he can’t make himself take that first step to get there. Unless someone is standing there calling him. Once he takes the first step, he readily continues down the stairs. It is only that first step that requires encouragement.

It’s as if he needs someone else’s approval to take that first step. He can see it. He knows he’s done it before. But, for some reason he must have someone else tell him it’s OK.

Where are you behaving like this? What goal do you have for yourself that you are finding it difficult to take that first step? Where are you waiting for approval?

You know that all you need to do is make a start; once that first step is accomplished, the remaining steps will flow naturally. But, you find yourself staring down (or up) that staircase, unable to take that first step.

How badly do you want to achieve your goal? Are you going to continue standing there, whining, whimpering, waiting for someone to coax you across the threshold?

Don’t wait. Take that step. Coax yourself. The only approval you need is your own.

Know your goal and go for it. You’ve been approved.

Legacy

Photo of Bob Isaacson.
Photo copyright ©2015 David J Crone. All rights reserved.

What is the legacy you hope to leave behind?

I have previously written about heroes and role models. One of mine recently passed away. Bob Isaacson. He was 80 years old.

Like many of my friends, I knew Bob from work. Bob was a ventriloquist. He was a staple at the Vent Haven ConVENTion, an annual gathering of ventriloquists from around the world. He was beloved by everyone who knew him.

One of Bob’s joys every summer was to be the Emcee for the Junior Open Mic event at the convention. Occasionally, he would perform as part of his time on stage. But, primarily, he saw his role as supporter of the latest generation of young people learning the art and craft that he loved. He took his role seriously. One aspect he was known to work especially hard at was to pronounce each person’s name correctly as he introduced them. Bob saw this as an important part of showing respect.

Everyone who has met Bob has their own story of why he is so special to them. To me, Bob embodied the term, “statesman”.

Merriam-Webster defines statesman as: a wise, skillful, and respected political leader. If you remove the word, “political” from that definition, you have a perfect description of Bob: wise, skillful, and deeply respected.

Bob was always eager to sit and talk with anyone at any skill level about the art and craft of ventriloquism. He would tell stories from his experience. Then, what made him unique, he would turn the conversation around to you, offering words of encouragement and gentle guidance. Bob had a knack for treating you as the most important thing in the world to him at that moment.

The other word that comes to mind when I think of Bob is, “gentleman”. While I have no knowledge of whether Bob comes from noble birth, he always conducted himself with the spirit of a true gentleman. Again, from Merriam-Webster, “A man whose conduct conforms to a high standard of propriety or correct behavior.” He was truly a gentle man.

Much of Bob’s influence was through his skills on stage. He brought laughter to many. But, as strong as that was, his impact off stage was even greater than on. Bob showed me what it looks like to be a kind, loving human being.

That is a legacy worth leaving.

 

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.