November 2014

It seemed like a silly question.

What’s your secret to being happy in your 40s? a reporter asks actress Jennifer Aniston.

Does she really have to answer this kind of crap? I think to myself. Ms. Aniston answers.

Don’t overthink it.

Great life answer. Great business answer, too.

We know the perils of collective overthinking. We have catch phrases to describe it. Group Think. Analysis Paralysis. Mental Constipation.

We rely on process tools to accelerate thought. Risk Analysis Tables. Decision Matrices. Helpful. And they often foster more paralysis.

When a bunch of my big clients brought in McKinsey and Company for an organizational diagnosis, the answer, down-the-line, was the same:

Inability to make decisions.

Uhuh. Overthinking.

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I stumbled across the word bloom last week.

I know the word, of course. It’s the context that enthralled me.

For 3 decades, Jon Kabat-Zinn has been a prominent American crusader for the benefits of everyday mindfulness. A friend gave me a copy of his brilliant 1994 book “Wherever You Go There You Are.” 

See if you can detect the bloom of the present moment in every moment, Kabat-Zinn writes, the ordinary ones, the “in-between” ones, even the hard ones.

The Bloom. 

Easy to see in the blush of accomplishment. During the thrill of the victory lap.

The Bloom.

How do I see it when the same colleague pisses me off once again? When another tedious meeting ends in indecision? When I don’t look forward to completing a single task that is in front of me today?

You know the list.

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Convenient little lies.

I am astonished to what lengths we go to perpetuate them.

I could chuckle about it. Except that it’s not funny. Little lies are how we collectively hold each other back.

Finance People don’t like to role-play.

A little lie from the training world in which I toil. You know the stereotypes behind the lie.

I spent an entire day last week with 20 finance folks. We did a large-scale workplace simulation. Of course we had a blast. In my experience, finance folks absolutely relish role-plays. And that’s NOT a little lie.

Don’t do any fluff.

That’s what my boss told me, a few years back, the day before I flew to Huntsville/Alabama to work with the NASA instructional design team that develops all the training programs for astronauts.

These are the most over-educated people you will ever meet, Cindy warned me. Don’t waste their time. No fluff.

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I’ve learned that it’s what you leave OUT of a performance, not what you put INTO it, Tony Bennett says. Less is more. It’s not because of my age, but it’s the right thing to do.

Tony Bennett is 88. Wondrous insight.

I think of the oh-so-not-helpful advice we give folks on how to maneuver.

Just be yourself.

Let’s be clear. At work, nobody wants you to just be yourself. We want you to make choices about the self you bring.

Channel the you that enhances execution and personal connection. Check the other selves at the door.

Tony Bennett knows. When you style a song, there’s the craft of singing. And there are the choices you make. Yes, less is more.

I have to be authentic with people.

The most overused leadership cliché of the past decade or so.

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