Systems Thinking – We Need It

Perhaps because I’m working on a couple systems thinking training modules for a client of mine, (and I’m most grateful for them) this is top of mind.  Though my longing for leaders (political, civil, religious – all leaders) to think systemically, has been percolating for quite some time.

In its simplest form, systems thinking is about looking at the whole first and the parts or components secondarily.  Analytical thinking is just the reverse.  I didn’t perceive that systems thinking was utilized when Obama Care landed our door and Congress had to pass this legislation in order to read it and learn what was actually in the bill (this is more than my opinion – I was invited to participate in a few calls with members of the Obama administration to discuss this act after it was passed).  I didn’t perceive a great deal of systems thinkers regarding the myriad of state-led responses to Covid-19.  And I pray that we don’t miss another needed opportunity to use systems thinking in taking steps to heal our country in light of unnecessary force to detain a man of color, which likely contributed to his death.

My soul cries for unity in our country.  That doesn’t mean that we have to agree on everything and that we can’t have opinions.  As Morgan Freeman recently posted on LinkedIn, just because we don’t agree on everything doesn’t mean I don’t like you or that we can’t be friends.

And something to consider.  When we use an analytical approach to solve a systems problem, we are likely to end up with unintended consequences.  It’s time to start with our desired future state.  I really think that most of us want to live in a country in which we feel we are equally respected and have the ability to satisfy our very basic of needs:  safety, love, shelter, etc. and thrive, if we desire. This ideal state must be crafted with input from many who are represented in our country (the system).  And in keeping with systems thinking, we’d develop key performance indicators (KPI’s) so we can measure if we’re on track to achieve our desired state.  Next, we do a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis to define our current state.

Then we work on strategies and action items to bridge the gap between where we are (current state) and where we desire to be (future state).  Lastly, it’s imperative to do an environmental scan.  What obstacles or barriers might make it difficult to work through the plan?  What might be changing in the environment that would affect the plan?

I’m a coach.  Coaches have been using systems thinking for years.  It’s how we help clients vocalize their truths.  I have found, in my years of using systems thinking, that if representative voices are involved in crafting the plan, the pieces of the puzzle come together, and together, we create unity.

Connection is Key

As human beings, we are naturally social creatures. We crave connection! However, too many of us miss genuine opportunities to connect. We may be thinking about what we want to say, or otherwise be distracted. One of the keys to really connecting with others is attentive listening!

We’ve all sat through that training session where we were told hearing is not really listening. A few weeks ago, I was attending a meeting and a gentleman who like me, is self-employed, came up and introduced himself to me. I smiled, repeated his name and stated, “we’ve actually met before. I met you a few months ago at this same meeting.” It honestly didn’t bother me that he’d forgotten we’d already met. It was a busy networking meeting and I’m quite sure I’ve forgotten introductions too, because I wasn’t allowing myself to be fully present (big disconnection habit). What surprised me was that when we were done with our exchange, I stated, “it was nice to see you again” to which he replied, “well it was nice meeting you.” Indeed, did you hear a word I said? Probably, but did you listen to what I said? If he was really interested in connecting with me, he could have said something to the effect, “Thanks for reminding me about our earlier introduction. It was great catching up with you.”

How about you? Are you just hearing others or really listening? Unlock your power of connection!

Normandy’s Leadership Legacy

I couldn’t help but tear up watching the coverage celebrating the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy which ultimately changed our world, for the better.  These brave veterans taught us many lessons in leadership that are still worth consideration, today.  Extraordinary leaders…

  1. Know that leadership is messy – not for the faint of heart
  2. Surround themselves with other serving-leaders
  3. Know that teamwork is not optional – it’s a pre-requisite
  4. Believe that you can, and you will
  5. Are courageous…and some still parachute out of a plane at 97 years of age

To say we owe these brave Veterans a debt of gratitude is an understatement.  Better we challenge ourselves to pay homage to their sacrifice by living their legacy and become extraordinary leaders ourselves!

What Your Recruiting Practices Say About Your Brand

A brand’s reputation is everything.  What many don’t think about is that your team members are the most visible ambassadors of your brand.    

As an example, your Talent Management or Recruiting function is an outward-facing department.  These professionals spend much of their time crafting job postings and managing the recruiting process from receipt of applications and resumes to hiring. All these actions (or lack thereof) reflect your brand. 

As a long-time Human Resource professional, a comment that I frequently heard from friends and those in my networking circles, was they usually didn’t hear from companies to whom they’d applied for a job.  In fact, a survey mentioned in a 2018 eBook by Phenom People estimated that only 2% of Fortune 500 companies communicate a candidate’s status throughout the recruiting process. 

An online article published on March 19, 2019 on Flexjobs, suggested some of the reason’s candidates don’t hear back from potential employers could be because:

*The company’s staff are just too busy

*They are afraid of legal ramifications

*They are just plain rude

While there were several other reasons listed, the first two are excuses I hear from companies as well.  And to be honest, I think they are all problematic.  Do you really want your brand’s reputation to be linked to any of these excuses? 

If your recruiters are too busy to craft a thoughtful email that lets candidates know you appreciate their interest and you will be reaching out to those candidates whose experience and qualifications best match your needs…something is wrong.  Get some help from Upwork or other websites from which you can hire as much or as little talent as you need to get the job done.

If you are afraid of legal ramifications, I would suggest that you invest in training.  Teach your recruiters and hiring managers what they should or shouldn’t say to a candidate.  If someone has been interviewed by you, they deserve follow up communication.  If you are afraid you will say something that will put your company at risk, you are likely in a position in which you should not be interviewing candidates (without proper training).

Unfortunately, being rude seems to be the rule of the day.  This week I spoke to a friend who had two great interviews with a company and was assured he would hear back by X date.  Three weeks later and still no communication.

I recently took over a search for a client.  One of my stipulations was that I be permitted to contact every applicant to let them know where they stood.  Any that were interviewed would receive a phone call regarding next steps.  There were over 100 applicants for this job.  I lost count as to how many thank you emails I received from candidates I had to thoughtfully reject. 

We all just really want to know where we stand.

I believe candidates and companies are at their best during the recruiting process. Do you really want a prospect to assume that your company’s team members are overworked, unqualified or rude? I’m guessing this wouldn’t match with the values listed on your company’s website. 

Instead of justifying lack of communication to candidates, make your brand stand out!  And the following are great reasons:

*Candidates do talk

*It’s respectful and professional

*That person you are rejecting may not be a team member, but may be a lifelong customer

Guard carefully your company’s reputation.  It’s like trust.  It’s easy to lose and difficult to rebuild!

Act As If

One of my favorite quotes is from the late Dr. Wayne Dyer, “If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” You may recall a similar quote by Henry Ford, “Whether you think you can or can’t, you’re right.”

This week, in a conversation with a dear friend, I was reminded of a concept I first heard in a video by DeWitt Jones, an award-winning photojournalist.  Act as if.

How many times have we given up on something because the voice in our head told us we should?  When we act as if, we believe that we can.  We learn to silence the voice of doubt and cynicism which often plays like an old vinyl record that keeps skipping.  How do we do that?  For me, it’s a combination of developing the right habits (which means we may need to let go of habits that are no longer serving us well and developing some new ones).  I am gifting to you, the steps I took, that were truly transformational for me, in developing my own, act as if mindset:

*Change the MP3 recording in your brain, by repeating a different mantra.  Write it out on a Post-It note and put it on your laptop, notepad, bathroom mirror etc.!! If you repeat this to yourself and out loud several times each day, this can become your new go-to recording!

*Exercise.  I’ve been working out four times a week with a terrific coach and nutritionist, Pia Fitzgerald.  Even if you do not live in the Columbus, OH area, I highly encourage you to seek her out as a wellness coach. She’s phenomenal and soon to be a published author!

*doTerra Essential Oils.  Yes, doTerra, not the cheap oils that are loaded with synthetics.  I became a Wellness Advocate with doTerra because of the transformation I saw with a skin condition a family member had (and permitted me to use doTerra Essential Oils to eradicate – as the treatments recommended by a highly regarded dermatologist were not working).  I also used doTerra Essential Oils on my 95-year-old mother-in-law and the change in her emotional and physical healing was incredible.  Identify the emotion you want to let go of or bring in.  The oils are powerful and depending upon what you’re trying to accomplish, the type of single oil or oil blend will vary! And a huge thank you to Sally Farnick for her help and education when I needed it most!

As one who is self-employed, continually LOOKING for work, while DOING the work, it can be daunting and it’s easy to feel over-whelmed and helpless.

You can also feel helpless and hopeless if you work in an organization whose culture is not healthy.  Unfortunately, as I learned from personal experience, the alternative to acting as if, is to become a victim by letting the cynical voice in the head rule the day!  That’s not a healthy alternative.

What are you doing to act as if? You have one life, no re-takes!  Take control and watch what happens!