Behavior Matters!

Harnessing the power of behavioral science to improve how organizations, leaders, and people work

Tag: Passion (Page 1 of 3)

Behavioral Observations: “On the Road Reflections” from the Hindu Kush 

Here at the Lantern Group, we specialize in applying behavioral science insights to drive organizational performance and change employee behavior.

For this article, however, I am going to take you on a journey to the other side of the world. Right now, you are wondering: “what could the Hindu Kush possibly have to do with behavioral science!?

Well, as we have been telling you, it’s everywhere!

So, bear with me and let’s have some fun while we talk about behavioral insights in action; observed from a recent adventure in northern Pakistan.

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Change is Hard – So What Did I Do About It?

Today I'm Motivated ToLast week I wrote about how I have not kept up on my own goal of writing a book on achieving goals (i.e., change).

Ironic?

Yes…very ironic.

As mentioned, over the past two years I’ve been researching how people change.  That research indicates that there are six major components that help people achieve purposeful change.

In reviewing my own lapsed change goal of writing five pages a week, I found that I had only leveraged two of those six components.  Doing the math, that means that I was not doing four of the six.  Those were:

1. Writing was not an emotionally driven goal – it was a rational goal

2. I had not established a habit around writing

3. I had not changed my environment to help facilitate my writing

4. I did not have social support network set up to help me

Last week I identified two of those six as easy fixes, one as moderately easy and one as very difficult.  Here is my work to date on those:

My easy fixes (weren’t so easy):

4.  Social support network.  In response to this, I talked to my wife and asked her to help me on this by holding me accountable.  She refused.

Yes, that’s right, she said, “no.” 

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Change is hard (4 ways I defeated my own change process)

Change is hard

Change is hard

For the past two years, in addition to my regular day job, I’ve been researching what it takes for people to make meaningful and purposeful change.

It has been fascinating.

I’ve talked with a number of people about their change journeys.  I’ve read countless books and journal articles on change.  I’ve been introduced to a number of new insights from neuroscience, motivational theory, behavioral economics and habit formation that, when brought together, can have a huge impact on how people can effectively change.   I have identified what I think are six major components that help drive successful change.

I’ve lived this, breathed it, and dreamed it…

And yet…

I’ve not been able to keep my own change habits going.

At the beginning of the year I had set out to write five pages a week on change (not quite a New Years resolution, but very close).  I thought that would be a manageable goal and one that would allow me have enough material for a book on change by the end of the year.

Five pages a week isn’t even a page a day – how hard could that be?

Well it was hard.  Very hard.

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Ignite your motivation

This blog has Ignite your motivatoinbeen kind of quiet lately – partly on purpose and partly because life is busy.

The on-purpose part of being quiet was brought on by a post I read by Derek Sivers blog (http://sivers.org/boring) on whether it is better to focus, entertain or both?  The underlying message being that we sometimes put out content to just put out content, when instead we should be focusing and developing our ideas and build a “path to mastery.”  It is a great conundrum that we all face…as Derek says, “you’ve got a conflict: What’s best for you is to shut up, sit down, and focus. What’s best for them [audience]… is for you to be entertaining.”

That being said, I’ve been working on developing a few concepts that build off of what we’ve done in the past, but reflect a new approach for us.  This required me to shut up, sit down and focus.

As readers of this blog know, we have concentrated on improving employee motivation at an organizational level for years.  We put a lot of stock into understanding the research out there on this topic and not just repeat the same old ideas.  For instance, outside of the original researchers, we have probably done more work on the 4-Drive Model of Employee Motivation than anyone in the country (see here, here, here, here and here for just a sample of our thoughts on this).  We think that this motivational theory offers companies new ways of looking at their reward and recognition framework that is refreshing and helps drive motivation in exciting ways.  We used this and other research (mostly insights from behavioral economics and psychology) to help organizations set up reward and recognition systems that tap into these insights and improve employee motivation and engagement.  We’ve done exciting work with a number of large and small companies helping them do this.

What we hadn’t done is focus on what individuals could do to improve their own motivation.

We had not explored how individuals, such as yourself, keep on task and stay motivated to achieve your goals?  How can we leverage the new research that is out there to help us stay motivated everyday.

So we are shutting up, sitting down, and focusing on that.

And it is fascinating.

Recent work by researchers on habit formation, willpower, and individual change have shed light on a number concrete steps that we, as individuals can do, to help keep us motivated and on task.  We have taken the first strides in  building a process that melds together all this research into a few main concepts that can be framework for a personal motivation plan.  Our initial work has led us to develop a five step process, that we think will not only help people to ignite their own motivation, but also to build ways to maintain that motivation for the long run.  These five steps are:

1) Find your motivational flow

2) Recalibrate your habit triggers

3) Enable your daily environment

4) Socialize your motivational strategy 

5) Track your goal progress

Each step has both research and real actions behind it.

We are still working on this and are looking for collaborators to help refine the process and test our assumptions.  The idea is to create a workshop and support materials that can be piloted. In the near future, we will be testing the model and piloting the process with a few people.  If you want to be part of that group, let us know (leave a comment below or e-mail kurt@lanterngroup.com) and we will put you on the list and you can be one of the first to try it out.

As always your thoughts are appreciated.

Top 5 survival tips for small businesses – guest blog by Paul Schoening (3 of 3)

The following is the final blog of 3 posts from our guest blogger Paul Schoening, President of Plan C.  He is bringing a unique perspective on what it takes for a small business to survive.  In his first two posts (here and here) he talked about the difficulty of starting a business based on passion and how that passion is both good and bad.  He discussed how entrepreneurs need to look at building a sustainability plan and not a business plan.  In this blog are his final two tips.  Let us know what you think.  Enjoy!

4. Continually learn: I’ve mentioned education already but I need to stress how it’s important to stay ahead of the competition.   To do that, you need to carve out time to learn.  It doesn’t matter how you learn, but you must be constantly learning.  I’m not saying that you need to take classes – but you do need to keep up on things.

Read, attend conferences, sit through webinars, go to the library (I know – old fashioned but it works), find a mentor, network and learn more about your business than you think you will ever use.  Using the internet to learn is easier than ever – enter a topic in google and you have thousands of links to explore.  Subscribe to websites that help you learn and stay up on leading thought in your industry.  University sites offer a lot of free classes via the web (see here).  Apple even has iTunesU that you can get on your iPhone or iPad and learn while you are on the go.

When you are starting a business, finding time to learn can feel like you are taking away from other important aspects of the business – but it is key to long term survival. You’ll need to prioritize your time and make critical choices which will allow you to learn and grown your business at the same time…including how to more efficiently sweep the floors! Engaging your new employees through continuous learning is also a key factor in retaining the talent you need to succeed. Rick Osborn, president of the Association for Continuing Higher Education says, that’s a mistake.

“It doesn’t make sense,” said Osborn. I understand that when businesses are looking to make cuts, these are the kinds of programs that are the first to go. In the short term, those kinds of cuts might work for a business. But, in the long run, you’re going to have to restore the cuts.”

Businesses that offer professional development often have a strong track record for employee retention. In fact, employees cite continuing education programs as the No. 2 reason they stay in their jobs, said Susan Porter Robinson of the Washington, D.C.-based American Council on Education.

Source; www.bizjournals.com December 7, 2009

5. Connect, connect, and connect some more: Get connected with people in your industry, other small business people, and anybody else that could potentially be of benefit to your business.  Do this so you can understand the challenges, opportunities and resources available to be successful.   Research by the IBM T. J. Watson Research Center indicated that the effects of networking and connecting with other people have a long term positive impact.  The research found that 9-months after a networking “mixer” event, participants rated the top five benefits as

  • Being networked professionally
  • Feeling energized by the interaction
  • Gained a business insight
  • Established a collaboration opportunity and
  • Had found professional inspiration

Source: Enhanced Professional Networking and its Impact on Personal Development and Business Success, 2006

While every social engagement is not a sales call, it can be a potential opportunity to talk about your business and what you do.  Join Linked-In groups, start a channel on You-Tube, expand your twitter accounts.   Utilize your network of friends, family and acquaintances.     Make the effort.  You never know where the next sale is going to come from.  Don’t leave anything on the table, this is your livelihood!

Let us know what you think – leave a comment below.  Join in the discussion!

Top 5 survival tips for small businesses – guest blog by Paul Schoening (2 of 3)

The following is the second of 3 posts from our guest blogger Paul Schoening, President of Plan C.  He is bringing a unique perspective on what it takes for a small business to survive.  In his first post (here) he talked about the difficulty of starting a business based on passion and how that passion is both good and bad.  He discussed how entrepreneurs need to look at building a sustainability plan and not a business plan.  In this blog are his next two tips.  Over the next few weeks, the final post will outline the final two survival tips.  Enjoy!

2.  Show me the money:  When starting a new business, oftentimes entrepreneurs focus on sales revenue or profit figures to assess how they are doing.  I know I did.  In fact, we had record sales in our final quarter as a business and yet we couldn’t make it last.  money

While it is good to be profitable and increase sales – it is absolutely critical to have a positive cash flow!  You need to have enough cash flow to give yourself time to get off the ground and pay your ongoing bills. Fast growth and increased sales are great, but this can create a sense of overconfidence that can skew your decision-making especially with early business success. Conversely, when times are challenging and a business owner is under pressure we can easily make rash decisions fueled by emotion, not logic (i.e., “how the hell am I going to pay for this?”).

One example of cash flow issues was custom cabinet seller M&J Kitchens – who had survived the Great Recession even when its revenue from homeowners and builders dropped by more than half in 2009.  They weathered the storm.  Then, late in 2011, with sales almost 42 percent higher than the prior year, they were unable to pay their bills and owner Drew Davies was forced to shut the  26-year-old company down. What happened?  M&J highlights how important cash flow is.  The issue was a “cash-flow crisis precipitated by his bank and trading partners, who Davies says, abandoned payment agreements that had been in place for decades.”  M&J’s cash inflows were coming in slower and it’s payments still needed to be made. In this instance “M&J had to float their customers—builders, architects, and home remodelers—who had slowed their payments, typically from 30 days to 60 or 90. At the same time, his own suppliers changed agreements that had been in place for decades by cutting credit lines or requiring deposits, which Davies says could tie up between $60,000 and $120,000 per month.”  After more than 25 years of business, the company was forced out of business, not because sales were down, but because it couldn’t cover its cash flow.

Source: Businessweek.com February, 2011

What happened to M&J is not atypical.  It can happen to all of us.  Which is why we need to have cash flow plan.  One way of looking at this to think about how much cash is required to make payroll, pay suppliers, and cover other expenses each month – then figure how many months of cash reserve you will need to have if things don’t go smoothly.  In my case with the bike business, I usually looked out 3 to 4 months.  I should have been looking out 6 to 9 months.  Each business is different – so think hard about what a downturn or change in situation would mean to you.  How fast do your customers pay?  How long can you push out your own payments.

One way to avoid these mistakes is by finding a great accountant or financial consultant and using them to map out a plan for this.  Look at ways you can collect money faster by offering discounts for payments early or requiring a deposit.  See how you can restructure payments on goods and services that you use.  Look at payroll differently – offset high bi-weekly pay by using quarterly or annual bonuses that provide flexibility for you and rewards your employees for great work.  If  you can’t afford to hire an accountant full-time, there are many firms that you can outsource part of the accounting of the business to or hire in for consulting.  The voice of reality (a shrewd accountant) will keep you in check.

3.  Double the time you think it will take:  Time is a resource that is often underestimated when starting a new adventure.  In the passion of developing out this great new idea, we forget about how long things can take.  Particularly the little things.   You can celebrate that you are the President or CEO of your business and be very happy to have the title. But you are also the janitor, the sales person, marketer and customer service rep. You need time to handle all of these responsibilities, take time to do research and to ensure that you are continuing your education and staying on top of the latest trends and facets of the marketplace.

Here are a few examples of some rough time estimates that an entrepreneurial friend put together for me for some of the things that he does that are not part of his core business.

  • Accounts payable: 2 hours per week
  • Accounts receivable: 1 hour per week
  • Payroll: 1 hour per week
  • Social Media Outreach: 3 hours per week
  • Developing marketing campaign: 2 hours per week (varies, but this is an average)
  • HR: 1 hour a week (up to 8 hours a week when issues arise with employees or when hiring)
  • Scheduling: 1 hour per week
  • Responding to sales requests: 1 hour per week
  • Networking: 2-4 hours per week
  • Miscellaneous (IT trouble shooting, equipment purchase/repair, responding to solicitations, etc..): 2 hours per week

This totals up to over a day and a half out of the week for work doesn’t even include business development, sales, or anything that has to do with the work that drives value for his customers (granted, he could probably reduce his Social Media Outreach – I mean really, 3 hours on Twitter, Linked-In and Facebook?).

One way to overcome this time crunch is to look at outsourcing some of the functions of your business so you can focus on the areas of which you have immediate control and greatest value-add. This might require you to increase your outflow of cash (which can be troublesome – see #2) but if it can allow you the time to focus on the important things for success, then it is worth it.  Another option is to think outside of the “box” and look at creating partnerships and alliance where you can trade services or leverage each others core competencies.

Reflecting on the past and the power of purpose

Today is Martin Luther King day.  A day of remembrance and thankfulness.  A time to reflect on all that has been done by people in the past to get us to where we are today.  Particularly those people who suffered and were persecuted to correct wrongs and injustices in our society.

These people had a purpose beyond their own lives.  A purpose that motivated them to go out into hostile situations and face the possibility of harm and even death.  This inner drive was one that allowed them to see beyond their lives as individuals and see how they needed to change society.  It was a purpose larger than themselves.   It was a purpose outlined in Martin Luther King’s dream – one in which all people of the world would be judged by the character and not by the color of their skin.

I am very grateful to be able to remember and reflect on this.

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There is always that one client who drives you NUTS…

This is a true story of what happened to me and one client.Driving me nuts

It began in August.  I was contracted to conduct an analysis for a company that will remain unnamed.  The analysis looked at some specific aspects around a new product launch and involved interviewing a number of executives and sales people from across the organization.  In all I did over 40 hours of interviews.  I spent twice that amount of time analyzing the interview responses, finding patterns and insights that applied to their specific situation, assessing linkages and developing insights.

I created a comprehensive report that included an executive summary, detailed findings, recommendations for success, and a large section with selected verbatim comments from the interviews.

I thought it was pretty good.  We uncovered a lot of useful information regarding the launch process,  the sales force readiness, and the work that needed to happen leading up to the launch that could really help the company be more successful.  We had taken the pulse of the organization and reported it back in a clear and informative manner.

I’m not just tooting my own horn – the client was very pleased with the content and the findings also.  No really he was. In fact, he stated in an e-mail, “I’m very happy with the content and findings and I’m glad I used your services…”

Great.  Well done.  End of story – right?

Not so fast… you knew something else was coming….

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What’s going to motivate you in 2011?

Every year people make New Years resolutions.  For too many people, those resolutions are too soon forgotten and ignored.

Does that have anything to do with motivation?

To a degree – yes! I believe that it is about how we channel our motivation and keep it going.

I believe that most people are highly motivated to achieve their New Years resolutions whether it focus on weight loss or being a better parent.  Just as we are motivated to achieve certain goals at work, and yet often fail.  The problem is usually not in the initial stages where everyone is excited about the new resolution or goal (go to a gym in the next week or two and see how crowded it is).  The problem occurs when that initial excitement wains, and we fall back into the comfortable and routine.  We might try to regain that edge after one or two fall-off the wagon episodes, but pretty soon we tend to just ignore it or forget about it all together.

What we need is to have a motivational engine that keeps us going. We need to fill that motivational engine with the right type of gas and make sure that the engine is tuned up and ready to go. We need to make sure that we have enough gas to refill when it starts running low.  We need to know when to get it tuned up and change the oil.   We need to make sure that we can fix it when it breaks down.

I think all of our motivational engines are within us.  It is the scheduled maintenance and filling it up that we so often lag on.  What type of gas do you run on?   Is it a personal motivation?  Does it require a reward?  Is it social?  Does it need the turbo power of passion?  Is it a mixture of all four?

In order to achieve our goals we need to understand this about us and put elements in place to ensure that we fill our tank regularly and do all the scheduled maintenance required.

What about you – what’s your motivational fuel for 2011?

Do the holiday’s sap employee motivation? Or the wasted week between Christmas and New Years…

Here is a question that I’ve been asking myself all day long in between surfing the web to find out about the latest Timberwolve’s news, great after Christmas specials, the East Coast’s version of a Minnesota winter, and seeing what all my facebook buddies are up to – do the holiday’s sap employee motivation?  Or at a minimum, employee energy?

I know they do for me.

Which is a problem since this is our busy time of year.  Normally, I’m lucky to get Christmas day off  but this year I actually got three days off – that is a record I haven’t had in over 10 years!  With those three days came a lot of family celebration, festive eating, lots of visiting and much time playing with the kids.

Now I need a break!

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