My Process: The road to opportunity

Image result for process


Recently, I’ve applied for a position I’ve been seeking for a while within my company.  I worked within this department on a temporary basis at the beginning of 2016, but this position would be full time within that same department.

Here’s the challenge, though:  This particular position within the department is one where my experience is a little bit deficient compared to other candidates.  That’s probably understating it.  The other candidates have far more experience and practice in this particular field than I do.

I do have one thing going for me though.  A process. When I worked part time in the department, I developed a process for achieving results.  I spent some time crafting the process, and then a ton of effort adhering to that process over and over.  I owe virtually all of my successful results to that pattern.

Even though my credentials for this particular position are inferior to other applicants, current members of the department told me after interviewing that my process alone is enough to make me a strong candidate independent of my lack of experience.

Honestly, I’m not even sure if I’ll get the job or what that will look like.  But I’ve learned that simply having a process and disciplining myself to follow it generates results and opportunity.



Ask yourself: “What does this team need from me?”


I’m a big NBA enthusiast (Go Utah Jazz!), and I’ve really enjoyed the off season period of free agency and trades.  If you follow anything at all about sports, you’ve probably heard once or twice about Kevin Durant moving from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors now are going to be a scoring machine, probably more so than any team in NBA history.  It’s going to be something special to watch.  But I came across an article yesterday that caught my eye.  It centered on Klay Thompson, one of the multiple All Stars on the Warriors’ roster.  With Durant joining the team, it appears that Thompson is going to get fewer scoring opportunities.  Coincidentally, this may take him further out of the limelight on a team loaded with stars.

Apparently, Thompson worries nothing about this.  From the story:

When asked in Vegas of the memories that fuel him, Thompson said, “I felt that feeling of winning before and I was so close again. The pain of losing is way worse than that of winning. So I just want to keep winning, man. And we’re set up hopefully not just for this year but for years after to do it, and that’s what really motivates me.”

In the high stakes and high ego world of professional sports, this stands out.  But we face similar challenges regardless of our chosen area of work.  We all have ego, promotion opportunities, raises, and job satisfaction to think about.  To ignore those things is to invite mediocrity.

But what about the team?  In sports, players like Thompson become increasingly valuable. They identify what the team needs, and apply their skills to match that need.  That’s when excellence is created.  It’s rare because it’s hard.  It’s not easy to get everyone on the same page, accomplishing tasks, sharing credit, sharing blame, and getting the team towards its goal.

This being true, challenge yourself by answering the following questions:

  1. “What does my current team/project/assignment need to deliver excellent results?”
  2. In light of the above answers, where can I make a specific contribution immediately?

Answer those two questions, and follow up TODAY!  Start delivering on that insight.  Make yourself absolutely invaluable.  The great paradox of recognition is that it often comes when you are motivated by rewards other than recognition.

Regarding the NBA, will Klay Thompson be as consistent in his application as he has been in his off season quotes?  Time will tell.  But his willingness to discuss it provides a reminder of the opportunities that lie before you and me every day.

Deliver excellence today!



Your Project, Your Legacy


I came across two challenging ideas recently, one from a book I’m reading and one from a social media message.

The first idea is from  “The Project 50” by Tom Peters.  This book is an effort to transform the way we view and approach assignments and opportunities.  According to Peters, every task or project we endeavor to accomplish should be a “WOW Project.”  If it doesn’t make you say “Wow!” then the project is not worth doing.

Again, according to Peters, you can know that a project is a good one if it is remembered several years after its accomplishment.  It takes a lot of thought, effort, and execution to deliver that kind of result.

In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins begins with a quote:  “Good is the enemy of Great.”  Peters stresses this concept throughout his book as well, focusing on the project aspect of our lives.

As I’ve been reading this book, I came across a quote from Gary Vaynerchuk, who isolated this idea even further when he identified two reasons people fail:

  1. Fear of Failure
  2. Laziness in Execution

It was point #2 that slapped me in the face.

We’ve all had things we’ve had to do, right?  School work, volunteer assignments, work tasks, “honey-do lists,” and on and on.  But how many of those tasks really amounted to something special?  Is there a project or assignment that you blew out of the water?

This is a difficult question to ask.  I did well in school and I do reasonably well in my work. Far too often, though, I was and am simply doing what it took to approach “satisfactory.”  This works to an extent, but the greatest joy and satisfaction in life comes from delivering exceptional value in something worth doing.

That’s the catch, though: exceptional work requires exceptional execution.  “Just good enough” doesn’t cut it when we are striving as a team or as individuals to deliver excellent results time and again.  If it was easy to achieve excellence all the time, we’d see it happen far more often in the world. This isn’t the case in reality.

What we do in life matters.  Our results are essentially our legacy: what we leave behind for the world to benefit from or to trip over.  Just like a thriving garden requires consistent effort, our work and projects deserve our highest attention.

Think about the current assignments you have.  What can you do to make those assignments really turn in to a reflection of the value you can bring to the world?  What little details can you improve to make this project memorable?

Let’s get to work!




“Different” doesn’t always mean “worse” (or “better”)

I’m in California this week visiting family and friends. I ran over to a department store with my oldest children in tow to grab a few items I’d left at home.
In our hometown, we have the same department store, but the layout is a little different. Our hometown store has a bakery, and they have free cookies for kids at that bakery. This department store we went to today did not have a bakery, and also no free cookies.
My kids have been conditioned a bit to expect a cookie after shopping if they’ve behaved and done what they’ve been asked. I wasn’t able to offer that to them, and since they are 3 and 1 respectively, they were not exactly understanding my explanations that this store had no bakery.
As my disappointed kids kept looking at me for cookies (I’m too cheap to buy cookies for them), this thought crossed my mind: “Man, our store at home is way better than this one.”
We’ve all had an experience or two like this, right? We go to a new place, a new organization, a new team and we automatically start to compare the experiences and framework of the new situation to the comfort and familiarity of our old experience. As we do these evaluations, we often quickly conclude that the new experience is either better or worse than our old one.  
In some cases, our initial evaluations may be correct. But that’s not always the case. Consider these old sayings and cliches, some of which you’ve probably heard more than once:
* “Change for change’s sake”
* “We’ve always done it this way”

* “At my old job…..”

With my department store experience today, I may not understand why they’ve chosen to go without a bakery. Maybe they are able to offer more products regularly used in this part of the country instead of using space for a bakery. Maybe not having a bakery allows prices to be cheaper than if they did have a bakery. This may be true, and it may be not. The point is: I don’t know for sure. And I couldn’t possibly know without a lot more context.
Great teams change and adapt, that is for certain. But simply changing or being different doesn’t necessarily make things better. On the flip side, just because something is familiar or comfortable does not guarantee a better situation either. Evaluations must be made on merit.
Consider your own experience with changing situations and the challenges those situations present.  
* How can you evaluate changes and differences on merit instead of simple familiarity?
* Think of time when you felt yourself defending outdated practices. What prompted your defense? Was it effective and productive? Did it cause any friction on your team?

* How will you approach differences and change in a productive manner in the future?

“Above the Line”

One of my favorite activities to do with my children is wander around our local library.  The library is quite large, has statues, play areas for kids, and (of course) loads of books.

On a recent excursion to the library, I noticed a new book on the display shelf that I hadn’t noticed before.  It was called “Above the Line: Lessons in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season.”  Written by Urban Meyer and Wayne Coffey, the book outlined principles of preparation and process employed by the Ohio State University football team, which won the College Football Playoff and National Championship in 2014.

Having grown up in Utah, I was familiar with Urban Meyer from his short stint as head coach at the University of Utah.  I followed his career to Florida, where he experienced a lot of success and then burned out in a spectacular way.  I was most intrigued by the book because of its focus on culture:  the way the Ohio State Football Program approaches their work and maximized contributions from each player, coach, and staff member.

The book had many chapters I found intriguing and fascinating as a football fan as well as one who studies team excellence.  The principle that stood out to me the most, however, was what Meyer called the foundation: Above the Line.  He chose the phrase as the title of the book because of its fundamental importance to the success of his program.

Last week, I wrote about process, and how imperative it is for aspiring teams to have a process that produces results.  While this book illustrates multiple components of the Ohio State process, everything is dependent on “Above the Line” behavior.

From the book:

The performance of a team rises or falls on behavior.  Winning behavior is intentional, on purpose, and skillful.  It is Above the Line.  But it’s easier to be impulsive, on autopilot, and resistant.  This is Below the Line. Below the Line is dangerous because it is comfortable and convenient.  It is the path of least resistance.  Below the Line takes little effort or skill, and the best it can produce is “just OK.” Eventually, it produces failure.

Above the Line: Lessons in in Leadership and Life from a Championship Season.  Pg. 27

This had a profound affect on me as I read this chapter.  Guiltily, I began to see how often I reacted in impulsive, lazy, or resistant “below the line” behavior.  In fact, I am embarrassed to say this behavior was not exclusive to my career, but my relationships and personal life as well.  I resolved to do better.  Much better.

This principle is nothing new or earth-shattering.  But the effort required to follow it takes an incredible amount of effort and devotion.

Consider the following activities:

  1. Identify an area on your team or in your life that is producing mediocre results.
  2. What intentional behaviors can you change right now that may modify those results?
  3. Incorporate the selected behaviors in to your process immediately.
  4. Track whether or not this simple behavior change modifies your desired result. If so, keep it up! If not, try steps 1-3 again.

The beauty and challenge of “Above the Line” behavior is that only you and your team will really be able to identify what it means to be “intentional”and act on purpose.  But simply taking the time to identify what it means to you is the first step.

“Do you have a process?”

I was asked an open-ended question by a Department Director recently: “What is your process?”

Of course, “process” in his question related to my roles and responsibilities at the time. But the purpose of that discussion went far beyond a simple review of doing my job.

In the context I’m using today, “process” refers to the planning, habits, and methods that deliver results when followed appropriately. A process used by a litigation attorney is going to much different than a process used by a manufacturing foreman. Make no mistake, though, just because the components of a process may be different from one person, role, or profession to another, this does not diminish the importance of a solid process for each.

After describing my process to the Director, he then asked me a series of questions relating to my process, why I did things a certain way, and what I was hoping to accomplish by incorporating certain activities. In the middle of this discussion, he paused and asked me this:

“Why is it important to have a process?”

At first thought, I felt my process was important because I didn’t want to embarrass myself or be unprepared in my role. As he probed deeper, however, I learned something profound: Process enables one to improve. Without process, improvement is virtually impossible. Process allows us to isolate components that may be tripping us up, stunting results, or limiting growth. You can “fix” results by “fixing” your process. However, you cannot “fix” your results if you have no process at all. Where do you start to tweak if you have simply been winging things all along?

Consider the following example:

Many in sales have experienced or studied the “sales funnel.” How many people are you contacting? How many contacts turn to prospects? How many prospects end up buying from you? What’s your percentage of contacts that become prospects? What percentage of prospects actually buy? By examining how a salesperson moves a client from “contact” to “prospect” and from “prospect” to “sale,” the salesperson can isolate opportunities for selling and earning more.

The beauty here is that process doesn’t necessarily need to be a “one size fits all” model. Our process can and should incorporate our strengths and skills, utilizing these assets to deliver results.

Teams that consistently achieve excellent results rely on consistent processes. Whether we’re examining Alabama football under Nick Saban or Apple under Steve Jobs, processes are clear and followed.

Regardless of your role or career, there is a process that you follow to achieve results.  

Consider the following activities:

1. Write down your Key Result Areas. What metrics must you meet in your role? How do you know if you are successful? If you don’t know these yet or have not yet identified them, utilize those around you (friend, co-worker, spouse, boss, manager, etc.) for clarity.

3. Write down the process you currently use to achieve results. It doesn’t matter if you are in sales, athletics, customer service, or parenting. Write down what you do to achieve a key result Identified in Step 1.

4. Identify one component of your process that really “works.” You know it works because you get results when following this portion of your process. What makes this component successful? Why does it work for you? Does it work for others?

5. Identify one component of your process that needs improvement. Where are results potentially lacking? How can you change this component of your process to deliver better results?

6. Make yourself accountable to someone other than yourself for improving your Key Result Areas by improving all or portions of your process.

You may be surprised to learn how much of a process you already have. Utilize your answers from the five questions above to take your results to the next level.

The Value of “Team”

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.”

Over the last months and years, I’ve been contemplating things that fascinate me, cause me to pause, and encourage me to share ideas with others.

I’ve always loved sports, and it occurred to me that the examples of success, execution, teamwork, and practice are universal patterns of fulfillment across our multi-faceted lives.  The excellence we see on a field or court has been molded through hour after hour of repetitive adherence to the principles of excellence.

As a business major in college, this intriguing concept followed me to my work and career.  The principles that enable a player or team to hoist a trophy at the end of a season apply to individuals and organizations operating within virtually any sphere.  You obey and follow those principles, and success inevitably follows.

In sports, we hear the term “dynasty” used to describe teams that have maintained a consistent standard of excellence over a long period of time.  Cable sports network analysts will argue about whether or not a team has reached “dynasty” status.  This is not an honor bestowed easily.  We have champions every season.  But we have dynasties rarely.

So, what makes a champion?  Most importantly, what molds a champion into a dynasty?

These writings are my endeavor to organize my experiences with and observations of teams that not only reach a high level, but can maintain that level of excellence day after day, month after month, year after year.  These observations and experiences come from a variety of reading, my own experiences, and lessons I learn from individuals and groups that I interview.

I hope you find these writings insightful, that you share your own thoughts, and that the concepts invite introspection and application to your own team process.

-Sean Jaussi