Believe the actions, not the words.

In many ways, I’m an idealist. An optimist. I want to believe the best in people. People are nice, respectful, and well-intentioned. Their words match their actions. There are not hidden agendas. In my world, high trust is the default mode of operation.

I maintain this perspective by never reading comments on anything online, clearly. I ask you to afford me my idealistic beliefs.

I’m proud of them, quite frankly. I believe in my team, in my clients. I want to believe and foster the best in people. I believe in clarity of intent, in honest, open discussion, and in the presentation of a true picture of where you stand and what you represent.

I don’t want to be jaded and cynical. I want to believe. And at the end of the day, I want others to believe in me. To see the congruence between what I say and what I do. I refuse to stop kicking when I’m put in a position where actions don’t match stated values. I will carry my little naive torch, and be an example of what I expect to see in others.

It’s not always easy to live your values. Perhaps I just needed to remind myself of that today. Being accountable is a beautiful thing.

There’s nothing stopping you.

It’s one thing to have an environment where an individual’s initiative is not discouraged. Where if your team member goes out on their own to implement a new idea, they are not punished.

It’s quite another to foster an environment where initiative is perceived as desired. To make a place where your team is cultivated, strengthened, encouraged, rewarded, to invest yourself deeply in the success of your team.

I think about team culture quite a bit, being on two teams myself – one as a leader, one as a team member. Having the benefit of both managing and simultaneously being managed, you get a different perspective on your own theories of leading a team. You see both sides of the coin, you live both sides of the coin.

This week, I spent a lot of time thinking about how to cultivate an environment where people are encouraged to solve their own problems, where they feel safe, but are consistently challenged to learn and grow and try new things. Where failure to succeed the first time results in encouragement, not punishment.

Without insincere superficial praise, without masking real problems with new distractions every week – how do you keep a team challenged and encouraged to go out and experiment a little?

How do you get a team beyond having to point out to them that no one is stoping them from trying that new idea, to a place where, when an idea occurs, the top of mind response is to feel encouraged to try it?

That’s a big swing. One environment is all about fear of risk, fear of punishment and failure. The other environment is embracing the possibility of failing, recognizing it as an opportunity to learn, and moving forward fearlessly.

Which are you creating with your actions? How do you react when someone on your team fails? What are you doing to foster and reward those that take initiative?

Failing at Full Screen February. Already.

5 minutes into my first meeting, and I’ve already failed at Full Screen February.

I was mostly on the meeting to report on any status questions asked, while the account managers negotiated a contract. And so I busily applied myself to organizing a different project for the week, while they discussed.

And then I realized what I was doing. And that it is already February. And that I had better pay attention before one of my team called me on my behavior!

The lure of the second monitor is strong. I managed to finally ignore it, but then I wanted to pick up my pen and start a todo list for the day. I kept picking up my pen and putting it back down.

So fidgety.

I sat down at 10pm last week – not tired enough to sleep, not wanting any screentime – and picked up a book. It’s a book I’ve read before, and enjoyed. It was so hard to get through even just a few pages. The author writes in a style somewhere between sparse and flowery – descriptive, setting the scene, adding information to build the mental image, but not really integral to the plot.

And so I kept skipping forward, waiting for the next sentence that would further the plot. I kept having to stop and re-read. I mean, if I’m reading the book, I should *read* the whole dang book. It was so hard to make myself stop and look at every word, to not skim, but to take it all in. I got so frustrated with myself, with my lack of focus on the one thing I was trying to do.

Full Screen February will be harder than I thought.


Full Screen February

You know what is really irritating? When you make the effort to get up out of your car to walk into Starbucks, and then the people in the drive-thru get served before you do. I mean, you put all that effort into actually stepping foot into the store, to really *be present* with your barista, and then they serve some lazy jerk who couldn’t even get off his butt to get out of the car before they serve you?

How rude.

I should mention I’m in a meeting right now. I assume there are things going on in this meeting that I should be paying attention to, but I’m totally distracted. I just got a flood of Jira emails, a got a developer pinging me on Hipchat to tell me to go tell this other vendor to fix their stuff, I’m only halfway done with the things I wanted to accomplish today, plus, well. I’m writing a blog post.

Turns out that I’M the lazy jerk in the drive-thru.

Hold on, there’s some kind of awkward silence in this meeting, I need to see if they just asked me a question. BRB.

Okay, I think I bluffed an answer pretty well there. Where were we?

Oh yes. Me being a lazy jerk.

It’s too easy to not be present on these meetings. To be on a video chat and not even be looking at the other people on the meeting, to be staring at my second monitor, to be typing emails or checking messages, or using the time to catch up on something else.

And that’s not fair to the other people in these meetings. If the meeting is worth my time, then it is worth my complete attention. If the meeting isn’t worth my complete attention, then I need to not be in that meeting. Simple as that.

I’ve decided to try to mend my distracting lazy ways, or at least forge a better habit of paying attention, and treating these meeting attendees as the valuable contributors that they are. So I’m declaring Full Screen February for myself.

Full Screen February means my meeting is full screen. It’s my full attention. No other windows open, no checking email on the side, just the one thing to focus on on the screen. One full screen meeting, focused attention.

Maybe I’ll learn I need to cancel some meetings.
Maybe I’ll learn to run a more efficient meeting!
Maybe I’ll get better connection and better problem solving out of these meetings.
Maybe I’ll learn to set more accurate priorities for my attention based on real value of the things that compete for my attention.

Either way, it’ll be a challenge. Full Screen February. Are you in?