(#370) What’s Your B.M.I. (Bureaucratic Mass Index)?

June 25, 2017

Has your bureaucracy morphed into a soul-sucking and
resilience-retarding beast?

Bureaucracy catches a lot of heat. “The Bureaucracy.”  When something goes wrong….blame it on “The Bureaucracy.”  Of course, “The Bureaucracy” provides the structure. The people (the bureaucrats) make it move or stall. The organizational chart might tell the people where they fit in as a cog in the structure.  But those same people give life (or inertia) to the chart.

Anyone who has ever worked in or attempted to navigate through a bureaucracy may think of the words entrenched, glacial, and obstacles.  How does this happen? A short list includes ineffective leadership, poor hiring practices, rigidity, and an institutional culture that rewards non-risk-taking transactional interactions over transformative measures.

Before you can begin to unravel this Gordian knot of inflexible mindsets, you have to recognize the causes of organizational (structural, leadership, and followership) inefficiencies. A recent article in the Harvard Business Review listed seven warning signs that your bureaucracy has morphed into a soul-sucking and resilience-retarding beast.

  1. Bloat: too many managers, administrators, and management layers;
  2. Friction: too much busywork that slows down decision making;
  3. Insularity: too much time spent on internal issues;
  4. Disempowerment: too many constraints on autonomy;
  5. Risk Aversion: too many barriers to risk taking;
  6. Inertia: too many impediments to proactive change;
  7. Politics: too much energy devoted to gaining power and influence.”

The article says to take account of, what the authors call, the B.M.I.: “Bureaucracy Mass Index.”  A difficult task that takes concerted effort by insiders and customers alike.

The HBR articled asks, “How pervasive is bureaucracy in your organization? How much time and energy does it suck up? To what extent does it undermine resilience and innovation? Which processes are more trouble than they’re worth?”

The HBR list can (at least) provide a starting point for a conversation.  Just don’t let the conversation become one more stultifying exercise in bureaucratic futility.

More poignantly, do nothing and Pogo proves prophetic.


Video recommendation for the week.

Perhaps this young actress will help us listen more intently to the “Sh*t Bureaucrats Say.”


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.



For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#368) Fake, Illegitimate Or Incomplete Information?

June 11, 2017

Just because you find a lot of information does not mean
you have found accurate or credible information

If, as famed architect Frank Lloyd Wright claimed, “An expert is a man who stops thinking because he knows,” then can we say the same for a person who claims one source of information as the fount of all legitimacy and contrary accounts to be illegitimate or “fake”? Has she stopped discerning because she “knows” what is legitimate and what is fake?

More than five years ago, I shot a quick video (see below) outlining four basic considerations when considering information to address an issue or task?

  1. What information do you need for the task at hand?
  2. Where will you find that information?
  3. How will you evaluate the information you find for accuracy and legitimacy?
  4. How will you organize and use the information for your audience?

Can we grow as individuals if we filter what we read, hear, and see through one source (or a number of like-minded sources)?  Are we motivated to grow–or just “be right” even in the face of confounding information?

Do we care?

A friend shared two stories this week.  I doubt they are apocryphal.

  • A neighbor asked my friend where she got her news. My friend rattled off a list of seven or eight sources. Out of hand, the neighbor dismissed the entire list as thoroughly “illegitimate.” When asked what her source of information was, the neighbor mentioned one source. Just one source. It was, according to her, legitimate. End of story. (See numbers two and three, above.)
  • My friend has found the same situation in her college classroom.  No matter the topic,  two camps emerge. Diametrically opposed. Refusing to listen and discuss with the other. Each considering their source(s) of information legitimate and the others’ suspect at the least and fake at the worst.

Is this a sign of intellectual laziness? A lack of critical thinking? Or is this sort of thing nothing new—just magnified because everyone can have a social media platform where we surround ourselves with “likes” and “shares” and then block opposing viewpoints?  (I still remember my mother often warning me (more than fifty years ago) not to speak about politics or religion.) It does seem like today’s volume, as well as the personal vitriol, has been cranked up considerably.

I offered a suggestion to my friend.

  1. Pick two sources of news that generally disagree on issues and stances.
  2. Find one current news story on which both of these sources present a similar account of the issue or event.
  3. Print both stories without any attribution (nothing that would identify the sources).
  4. Ask your friend (or students) to identify the “illegitimate source” based solely on the content presented. If both stories are drawing the same conclusion then how can the argument hold that a particular source is always illegitimate?

Perhaps you could do it as well to at least start a rational conversation. Start with common ground and move from there.


Video recommendation for the week.

Just because you find information does not mean you have credible information.


Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.



For information about and to order my new book, Stories About Teaching, Learning, and Resilience: No Need to be an Island, click here.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

My podcasts: The Growth and Resilience Network™ (http://stevepiscitelli.com/media-broadcast/podcast).

My programs and webinars: website  (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/what-i-do) and (http://stevepiscitelli.com/programs/webinars).

Pearson Education publishes my student textbooks for life success—Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff? (3rd edition).

(c) 2017. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.


(#321) The Nudge: Everything Sends A Message

July 17, 2016

We take chances, we fail, we learn, we grow,
and we move forward.

 Listening to a TED Radio Hour (June 24, 2016 show) piece reminded me of the power of words and self-talk.  The theme of the show was that to change habits or make changes sometimes all we need is a gentle nudge in the correct direction.  The form of that nudge is critical.  More specifically, how the nudge is presented will have an impact on results.

One of the interview guests, Carol Dweck, noted researcher and Stanford University psychologist, pointed to her research on mindsets.  She emphasized that when we want to encourage (nudge) people to improve and continue to grow we need to pay attention to our words and actions. Sounds simple but the subtleties are immense. Leaders, parents, and teachers would do well to remember that everything we say and do sends a message.

For instance, she cautions that we need to praise the effort not the intellect of a student or employee.  Praising the intellect can (according to her research) cause a person to avoid risks. Why? Because if I fail then what does that say about my intellect that I’ve been praised for? So, I take the less vulnerable route and listen to that little voice on my shoulder that advises me to remain perfect and not bring question to my intellect.  This, Dweck says, is the stuff of “fixed mindsets.”

Image: amenic181 @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: amenic181 @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

She found that when we praise the process (the strategy, the grit, or the progress) that nurtures growth mindsets. We take chances, we fail, we learn, we grow, and we move forward.

Early this week I was speaking to a community activist who shared her dismay with the obsession in Florida with testing school children.  Everything is about the test and getting the right answers to the test.  Either your right or your wrong—and the consequences can be immense for our children.

Rather than marking something “wrong,” Dweck suggested using the words “Not Yet.”  It does not excuse the error. It actually points out the error—but with hope for a better future the next time the problem or task is attempted. Positive and powerful rather than demoralizing and demeaning.

Think of the impact on leaders and employees when we focus on a “Not Yet” as opposed to a dismissive response to an error. Such a mindful approach helps our capabilities to grow.  This is not fuzzy talk saying we have unlimited capabilities. Rather, this approach helps us to better know our capabilities.

Video recommendation of the week.  In this short clip, Professor and Author, Richard Thaler, connect the notion of the nudge with being a “choice architect.”

Don’t forget the power of words—to others and to yourself.  Everything sends a message. What message do we send ourselves….and what messages do we accept from others? How can you be a choice architect in your life and the lives of others?

Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcast (about ex-offenders and resilience).  You can find my podcast series at The Growth and Resilience Network (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts).

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


(#320) No Need To Be An Island

July 10, 2016

Regardless of your calling or situation, collaboration and communication
are powerful forces. There is no need to be an island.*

One aspect of teaching that I enjoyed was that each time I entered the room with my students, I could close the door and “do my thing!”

One of the greatest challenges of teaching was that each time I entered the room with my students, I could close the door and “do my thing!”

You see, the freedom to “do our thing” and be creative and “spin our magic” can come with a price. If we do not remain mindful we can, over time, become isolated.  We can easily get lulled into the mindset that we are an island, separate from our colleagues.  And we can lose the power and strength of what a united teaching and learning community can bring to us.

When Tony Hsieh moved the Zappos headquarter to Las Vegas, he limited the number of entrances and exists for the building. This, he believed, would better orchestrate a flow that encourages “collisions,” serendipity and progress between and amongst employees.

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

Photo by Steve Piscitelli (c)

We lose that serendipity in our calling when we choose to wall ourselves off from our colleagues. This self-imposed isolation could have untold negative repercussions on our teaching, student learning, and on our personal and collegial resilience.  And the same can hold for any other calling or life endeavor.

You have a great deal to share with your colleagues. And they have a great deal to share with you.  Basketball coach Mike Krzyzewski (Coach ‘K’) of Duke said successful teams play like a fist. The individual fingers represent communication, trust, collective responsibility, care and pride.

One of the principles of student success calls for students to learn about and use appropriate resources for their growth and development.  In isolation, they may well flounder. With collaboration, they have a better chance to succeed.

A couple may have difficulties figuring out why they have “lost the spark.” Without outside assistance they may struggle to find the real issues challenging their relationship.

I purchased a new camera this week. As the cliché goes, I don’t know what I don’t know about cameras. So, part of my research included me reaching out to friends with photographic experience.

At my former college, I was fortunate to have the opportunity (along with a colleague who was a counselor with student services) to develop and deliver a workshop series that looked at student challenges.  We brought faculty and advisors together to share insights and strategies.

I find it interesting that so many people willingly share intimate experiences and tribulations with their “friends” in the social media public space but will not walk to the office next to them to seek feedback from colleagues sharing the same workspace challenges.

Regardless of your calling or situation, collaboration and communication are powerful forces.

There is no need to be an island.

Video recommendation of the week. Clay Shirky and his view of collaboration.

[*NOTE: This post draws excerpts from my forthcoming book to promote collegial conversations and resilience.  Stay tuned for more information in the months to come.]

Make it an inspiring week and H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can subscribe to my newsletter by clicking here.

Check out my latest podcast (about ex-offenders and resilience).  You can find my podcast series at The Growth and Resilience Network (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts).

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2016. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


(#287) It Could Be Worse. Comparatory Suffering?

November 22, 2015

For me, comparatory suffering creates its own issues.
My suffering is mine. Yours is yours.
Does it really help to compare it
to someone or something else—
while denying the feelings in front of you?

You’ve heard them. Probably have used them. I’ve used them. Four little words.

It could be worse!

Some time we use the phrase to help us cope with a disappointing (or even devastating) situation.

It could be worse!

Young Frankenstein reminded us it could be raining.

The sentiment, for some, helps make sense of otherwise confusing circumstances.

You’re diagnosed with an illness “A” and say, “It could be worse. I could have illness ‘B’.”

You lose your job and say, “It could be worse. My neighbor has illness ‘B’.”

You have a large car repair bill and say, “It could be worse. My buddy just lost her job.”

You end up with a new supervisor—whom you do not like.  “It could be worse. My colleague just got diagnosed with illness “A.”

I am not making light of this.  It almost seems to be clichéd resignation to accepting what lies before us. Or a way to not validate someone’s grief or angst.  “Yes, you are suffering—but the person over there suffers worse. You know, you could be in a lot worse situation.”

For me, comparatory suffering creates its own issues. My suffering is mine. Yours is yours. Does it really help to compare it to someone or something else—while denying the feelings in front of you?

It could be worse!

Lately, for me, though, the phrase “It could be worse” lacks passion or drive. Somehow it seems almost perfunctory, like someone mindlessly saying “God bless you” after a sneeze. Or, something we can say when confronted with a troubling situation that has happened to someone else—and we don’t know what to say.  So, out come those four little words.

Video recommendation of the week:

I guess, anything can be worse than something in front us. Still, words are powerful—and they matter.  A change of a phrase or a word may have a powerful effect on perception, outlook, and action.

Decades ago I remember telling a mentor about some issue that was bothering me.  I had been carping about the unfairness of my fate. I then heard myself complaining, stopped myself, and said to my colleague (something to the effect of), “But isn’t there some scripture verse about the person with no shoes who was upset until he saw the person with no feet? Am I just being a crybaby?” (A scriptural “It could be worse.”)

My mentor looked at me and advised that I not diminish my suffering.  He said something to the effect of “Yes, you may have your feet—but it is still you without shoes on your feet.”

The person with illness “A” can certainly take solace that at least it’s not illness “B.” If that works for that person, then it works. And, perhaps, this is merely semantics.

2nd video recommendation of the week:

And, just maybe, the tweaking of the words will help us better see the positive (“this will give me strength”) as opposed to hearing ourselves speak an alternative (“well, it could be worse”).

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts). 

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 

 


(#286) Seeking Passion? Embrace Curiosity!

November 15, 2015

Be curious about your inspiration…curiosity will lead to your passion.

In June of this year, I treated myself to a four-day solo retreat.  I spent those days reacquainting myself with a manuscript I had written fifteen years ago. Fifteen years!

As I read, highlighted, annotated and plotted (pun intended) my next moves with the novel, I felt energized by my reunion with my creation.  I was excited to make this project a regular part of my life and move it to the next level (wherever that might be).  I felt inspired.

Then, I let life intrude.  Over the course of the next five months, I spent a total of three hours (probably) working on the manuscript. Three hours! I found every reason to talk myself out of doing the work. My biggest and most relied upon excuse:  “Well, if I can’t devote at least a couple of hours a day, there is no use getting into it.” Guess what? I never found the two hours. Ergo, I never wrote another sentence in my novel. I had become, on this project, one of those people who does not finish things.

It bothered me. But not enough to do anything, mind you. Guess it really didn’t bother me that much.

I was guilty of what Steven Pressfield refers to as The Resistance. Seth Godin speaks of the failure to ship. I got bogged down doing little but wallowing in what ifs and not-good-enoughs.

Enter Elizabeth Gilbert and her new book Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear. 

big magic

Gilbert maintains that often what keeps us from creative living is our self-absorption (our self-doubt, our self-disgust, our self-judgment, our crushing sense of self-protection).”

Creative living—whether that be as an artist, writer, office worker, teacher, nurse, leader, parent or what have you—is, according to Gilbert, “…living a life that is driven more strongly by curiosity than by fear.”

As I read Big Magic, I felt like Gilbert spoke to directly to me.  She spoke of inspiration: “If inspiration is allowed to unexpectedly enter you, it is also allowed to unexpectedly exit you.”

Be curious about your inspiration, she told me. (Well, not really me…but, geez, it did resonate! I know she had to be looking at me from somewhere.)  Curiosity will lead to your passion.

2015-10-23 11.57.11

I never had the intention of writing a novel. Never have had any such training.  No creative writing classes (that I can remember). No nurturing family growing up urging me to be creative.

In 1997, Laurie and I moved to Atlantic Beach and I became thoroughly immersed in our new community.  I wanted to know about its history. I was curious.

That led me to a community committee to put together a book about our beachside community.  I started interviewing long-time residents.  Each conversation raised more questions; more curiosity.

Image: chaloemphan @ FreeDigitalPhotos

Image: chaloemphan @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

A year or so passed and the committee never really got far; no product (that I remember) came from it.  What did happen, though, was my building curiosity about a hotel built in Atlantic Beach by Henry Flagler in 1901.

I kept asking questions. Who were the guests? Why did they come? What was happening in their lives, the community, and the nation? I became more and more curious about this long-ago venue that no longer existed but for a few folks’ memories.

What emerged was my 360+ page manuscript.  My initial passion drove me to learn about my community—not do research for a novel. My curiosity, however, complemented my initial passion and led me to a new passion. If I had not been curious, I would have missed that inspiration.

Elizabeth Gilbert reminded me that when I find reasons (excuses) to not do what I want to do/need to do, I am cheating myself and my inspiration.  She reminded me of a something I know—we all know. The best way to start a project that seems intimidating is to begin with one small step and build from there. Heck, I even developed an activity for my students called “The Two-Minute Drill.”

The result: I told myself I could find 15 to 30 minutes per day to work with the novel.  And over the course of the past week, I’ve not missed a day. A simple reminder. A simpler step. Action. Commitment. Still a long way to go. But what is the saying about the long journey and the single step?

Are you feeling frustrated and blocked by a project that mocks you from across the room? Does it dare you to roll up your sleeves and start working-someplace?  Gilbert says that “Frustration is not an interruption of your process; frustration is the process.”   Remember that. Passion is great—but are you committed to the passion? That is the real question.

Image: Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image: Stuart Miles @ FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If the passion wanes or leaves you…then be curious.  What are you interested in—even in the slightest? What clue reside within that curiosity? What new passions await?

Video recommendation for the week:

It might not be a novel. In fact, it probably is not a novel.  Makes no matter.  The point: Embrace the curiosity, get on board, and be open to a wonderful ride.

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts). 

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


(#285) Are You Relevant?

November 8, 2015

“The trap we fall into is trying to tell people
how life-changing our widget is.
If it changes their lives, we won’t have to tell them.”
–Bernadette Jiwa

Prior to working with any audience, I invest a number of hours in emails and phone conferences with the contracting institution or organization.  I ask a lot of questions about their expectations and needs. Having sat through my fair share of irrelevant speakers and inconsequential programs, I make it my responsibility to understand what my audience needs. Yes, I have certain programs, messages and themes that I am known for and that I “market,” but in order to be relevant to my audiences I have to be meaningful to the audience in front of me.  My appearance on stage has to be about the audience not about me. That means tailoring the message to their situation as best I can.

In her book  Meaningful: A Story of Ideas that Fly, Bernadette Jiwa drives home one main point.Start the innovation journey with the customer’s story and allow our customers to become not just our target, but our muse.”

Tydings Auditorium Hobbs, New Mexico

Whomever sits in our “audiences,” we would do well to consider Jiwa’s advice. What is the purpose of our talk (or service or product)? Is it to be relevant to us or the people we serve? If it is not relevant to them, are we truly serving them?

What comes first, the marketing or the audience needs?  Is your programming or product developed and then marketed to people? Or do you get the pulse of your audience and then develop what they need?

Video recommendation of the week:

Again from Jiwa: “What companies and entrepreneurs sometimes forget is that the purpose of innovation is not simply to make new, improved products and services; it is to make things that are meaningful to the people who use them.” It taps into a feeling.

The first day of the semester (in my student success classes) I started with my students’ dreams and went from there.  Yes, there was a course outline and the textbook—but the approach to the material had to resonate with and connect to the people in front of me.  I had to make an attempt to understand their story rather than force feed my story. I attempted to tap into their feelings and emotions. To them college was not simply about a degree. It was about a better life for them and their families.

My history students received my promise that each day they would be able to apply the assigned readings and class discussions to their lives beyond campus. If they could not, then why waste their time? To be certain, the students had responsibilities in this dance; they needed to pay attention to guidance provided.  However, as Jiwa pointedly proves with various case studies, “The best way to get attention is to give it unconditionally first.”

Relevance. Meaning. Connection.

Do we take time to experience what our customer, client, or student is experiencing?  Stephen Brookfield puts forth a simple reminder in his book Becoming a Critically Reflective Teacher.  Teachers need to remember what it is like to be a learner in a “foreign” (read: unknown; difficult; demanding; uninteresting to them) field. One way for those of us in “front of the class” to stay in touch with our inner learner is to take a course in a “foreign” field. Perhaps a history instructor enrolls in a chemistry class or the English teacher signs up for Algebra.  I did this sort of learning when I learned to play guitar, wrote and recorded songs, began blogging, participated in an 8-week improv workshop, and, most recently, started a podcast channel.

Each experience helped me understand not only how I learned (and how that has been tweaked over the years) but also what I expected of my “teachers” and myself in each new and challenging situation. This exercise puts us in the seat as the student, client or consumer.

Jiwa’s book reminded and reinforced for me that success is not what we make but, rather, the difference we make with our product or our service in people’s lives.  She challenges us to consider the following:

Before you/your product/your service came on the scene,
what did people do?
After you/your product/your service came on the scene,
what did people do?

“The trap we fall into is trying to tell people how life-changing our widget is. If it changes their lives, we won’t have to tell them,” Jiwa says.

Make it a wonderful week—H.T.R.B. as needed.

You can find my podcast series at Growth and Resilience (http://stevepiscitelli.com/video-media/podcasts).

Check out my website  (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/programs.html) for programming information as well as details about upcoming webinars (http://www.stevepiscitelli.com/webinars).

My books Choices for College Success (3rd edition) and Study Skills: Do I Really Need This Stuff?  (3rd edition) are published by Pearson Education.

(c) 2015. Steve Piscitelli. All rights reserved.

 


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