Having A Growth Mindset Does Not Mean You Can’t Be Frustrated

I pride myself in having a growth mindset. I am always willing to learn something new, and I put in the time, usually, to grow proficiency. I feel that it is one of my better personal and professional attributes. A willingness to learn new things, and to put in the time to learn new things, does not preclude me from being a frustrated person, however. Those that know me know that I can be one frustrated mother trucker.

The difference, with me, however, is that I really do not know when to walk away. This tends to lead to more frustration with myself. Perhaps this is the grit and perseverance that Angela Duckworth discusses, or perhaps I have just read too much Malcolm Gladwell and know, if I put in the time, the efforts will pay off. Still, while it is very important to know how to persevere or work through frustration, there is not use beating a dead horse, so to speak.

Purposeful practice is meaningful practice. I am fascinated with the game of golf. In golf, just about anyone can swing a club, but not very many of us are playing on the PGA (myself included, unfortunately). In the game of golf, one can spend hours fruitlessly swinging a club around, without much progress. It is not until we do something different, such as focusing in on the club face, swing plan, body movements, and all of the other little components, and being very deliberate about how we are adjusting these things and building the muscle memory the right way that we start seeing positive results and a lowering handicap. Meaningful, purposeful practice can greatly reduce frustration when building a new skill. We all had training wheels, once upon a time.

Outside perspective is meaningful to the objective. When you are learning a skill, you should not go it alone, unless you want to add extra time to proficiency, in most cases. Whether it is finding a mentor, or taking a lesson, watching a YouTube video, or reading a blog, finding help on your path to success will certainly decrease your frustration and create an easier path to proficiency. All professional athletes accept coaching. Why is the same not true of you and the skills that you are passionate about learning?

Know when to shift focus. We all run into barriers, and this feedback is hardest for me, for I am extremely stubborn about practicing the same skill, over and over. This can be great practice at times. Other times, however, this repetition and unrealistic expectation that one more rep will help us reach mastery leads to more frustration. Know when to shift your focus to a different area, and when to come back to the specific skill once your head is cleared and a little time has passed (not too much time, or you will lose skill earned).

I am passionate about learning new things. I believe you are too, or you probably would not have stayed with me this long. Having a growth mindset and a hunger and passion to learn new things, and grit and determination to put in the work are amazing aspects to have in your personality. Don’t take them fore granted but just as importantly don’t beat that dead horse when it is time to call it a day. While life is too short not to learn more about this amazing universe, but it is also way too short to spend your days being frustrated. Now, go out there and grind!

Scalable Solutions Are Hail Able Solutions

When thinking about process design, workflows, standardization, simplification, and automation capabilities, one aspect of all of these becomes arguably the most import: is the solution scalable? Sure you and your team may have designed a really clever solution to a very complex problem. While commendable, large-scale impact on workflow optimization comes with scalable solutions. Without scalability, we have probably just created a customized process.

When designing workflow solutions, it is very important to keep the big picture in our minds. How can your workflow solutions be leveraged by other projects (how can you leverage solutions from others, as well, your answer may already be out there, after all)? A scalable framework is one that is able to be reused in other areas and in other projects. This means, when taken alone, scalable solutions are often quite deliberately designed as solutions for multiple problems.

Often, when I am put on a workflow project I find that someone is designing a solution that is too complex for the problem at hand. Additionally, these projects are encountering seemingly irreconcilable barriers. My perspective in these situations is usually the same, let’s take it back to the essence of the problem, and let’s keep it simple (I usually leave out the stupid part, but it does drive the point home). In my designing a workflow blog post I stress the importance of learning the as is process at a nuanced level–this would be the time when I would maybe re visit the as is process.

A scalable solution is usually a solution that will drive a great deal of standardization. This seems so obvious when written out, but again, we as intelligent, hardworking folks tend to overdesign and overcomplicate things. In the context of a workflow design, this can mean that standardization is not achievable. When designing or improving a process, determining what standards you want to hold your output to is important, and can help drive clarity around what the right solution may be.

Finding solutions to workflow business problems is not an easy feat. Creating a solution that solves workflow problems, and increases standardization is an ask that involves finding scalable solutions. While the problem may be difficult, often the scalable solution is an easy and obvious (always in hindsight, of course) solution. Thanks for reading, subscribe!

Designing A Workflow

Marking packaging alongside the production line

Designing a workflow for a new process is a tall task, and quite intimidating if you are new to the area. Still, they are a lot of fun, especially when you see that factory churning out those widgets for the first time. While I have primarily designed workflow solutions in the digital realm, I feel a lot of the lessons I have learned transfer fairly well to a traditional factory workflow, as well.

What is the as is process? It is really tough to design a new process when you do not know the ins and outs of the old way of doing things. If you do not know the as is process, figure it out. There are always the folks who are actually working in the as is process today that have deep knowledge and understanding of how things work, and what the pain points are. When you are learning the as is process, take lots of notes (recordings are great as well) and ask TONs of questions. Recite back to the current process owner what you have learned and ensure your understand everything correctly. If you cannot talk to the as is process then how can your speak to the to be process?

What already exists? You are most certainly not the only person that has been tasked to design a new workflow. It turns out, there is a lot of information available at our finger tips that can help us find simple solutions to the problems that we are facing. Don’t forget, The Devil is In the Details, and all of the little things matter. What may seem trivial may actually be a significant issue or hurdle–so ensure that you can account for all of the subprocesses and features your workflow will need to be successful.

Collaborate with others. Sure, maybe you have a fantastic idea to help solve a complex problem. The issue with that is that you most certainly have not thought of everything in your solution. Collaboration with others, while painful and slow at times, can help you ensure that you account for everything in your brilliant workflow solution. Remember, we are actually very rarely in this alone, especially in a work context.

Be able to succinctly and eloquently speak to your workflow design. If you can chat through a question against your workflow quickly and easily you may need to take a bit more time to look at your design. Take that feedback and ensure you can come back to the topic if you must. People can tell when you are struggling to address an issue, and most folks do not need an answer right then and there and will respect that you want to get it right.

Sometimes you just have to put something out there. Very rarely does the design 1.0 end up being the final version, it’s why we have versions of things, really. There is always opportunity for improvements in later phases provided you are able to come up with a minimal viable solution to the problem(s) that you are facing. Workflows are tough, but also very fun and rewarding as well. Dive in, you have got this!

You’re Very Aggressive, And You’re Not Doing Yourself Any Favors

I recently got the feedback that I was being aggressive and I was not doing myself any favors. Obviously, me being me, my first thought was F&%K YOU, MAN. But, then I breathed and realized the feedback, which I have often gotten through my professional career, was as relevant as always to my and my professional trajectory. “I know, I know”, I dejectedly responded, and then immediately and up until now have been obsessing about this valuable, but seemingly unactionable feedback, from one of my peers. I will be honest here, in saying that I am committed to retrying the advice below to help mitigate my aggression.

Exercise. Everyone has always told me that a lot of exercise helps to control those aggressive reactionary feelings. I will say that this is arguably the best control of aggressive tendencies that I have found over the years. When I don’t exercise, I am even more insufferable than normal times. Finding an exercise that fits your schedule and lifestyle is key. For me this is a lot of cardio and playing of games (golf, basketball, badminton) .

Meditate. Honestly, this one has never really done too much for me in terms of controlling my anger and aggression. I know that, for others, the meditation is key to feeling more emotionally balanced. I am open to retrying. I have recently redownloaded the Calm app. Any other recommendations are more than welcome.

Purposeful reflection. Whereas meditating usually seems to be about clearing one’s mind, purposeful reflection is the opposite. This is purposeful and constructive time, not to self deprecate, but to reflect on where you went wrong, what it was that triggered you, and how you plan to move forward and react in a way that is more aligned with your vision of yourself.

I have also determined that I will not give up the passion in my belly. It sometimes fuels the flames of frustration, anger, and aggression. Other times, however, most times, really, my passion fuels so many amazing things in my professional life. I can point to a dozen projects in the last few years where my passion (and many others) has drive ingenuity and fantastic collaboration. At the end of the day I want my passion to fuel the best parts of myself, the the worst. I am committed to moving forward using the techniques outlined above. You should, as well.

Sometimes You Should Write, For Writing’s Sake

These last few weeks have been wild, but I am committed to sticking with this blogging thing, and as I sat down to think of a post to write, at first I struggled. However, I found myself thinking about the benefits of writing, just to write, and the words began to flow. Why is it important to keep writing (or painting, or playing music, or learning a language, or studying, or working), even when do not necessarily feel that inspiration to do so, so to speak?

Consistency of habits. For me, I am a creature of and a big fan of building habits. I feel that building habits will help us as creatures find a better approximation of balance in our lives–you cannot build a habit if you are easily willing to break it. Once you have set a schedule to create the habit of consistency, make it very hard for yourself to break it, however it is that you do that. I have committed to writing blog posts every week, for better or worse, every Wednesday and Thursday. It is Thursday, and here I am, clicking away on my keyboard. Now, this is not to say I won’t ever shift the schedule around, but I will do so only if 1) it’s an emergency or 2) it is a pre planned ordeal. The former, because life, the latter so that I can coordinate my schedule to accommodate my habit building around my schedule, and also life.

Great happiness comes from fulling our commitments. Now, I am not saying if you are miserable you should stay miserable. What I am saying is that if you have found something that makes your life a little more fulfilling, then you should create a strict schedule that allows time for that thing. You deserve some time to learn new things that make you happy, you dope. Learning things may take some time to get good at (this blog, for example), allow yourself that time. Seriously, if you want to learn guitar truly commit your time and efforts to learning by planning a hard to break, committed schedule. Stick to it and tell me if you are not happy in six months when you are jamming Stairway.

Staying committed to your habit will make you better over time. Some things take more time and commitment than others to get better. My golf habit can certainly attest to this. BUT, I promise, you will get better. When I write better I mean that, relative to yourself, you will progressively get better by sticking to something, and allowing yourself time to actively practice. Don’t go it alone, either. There are so many great resources out there for learning in whatever area that we are trying to enrich our lives with.

Obviously this post is not about writing. It’s about building a habit. Stick with me on my own habit forming journey of blogging, and I promise you will see me be a reliable committed, habit forming blogger, you will see me gain happiness from building the habit of blogging, and you will see, hopefully, the writing and style get better along the way.

Help!

The Beatles once sagely wrote:

In terms of the professional world, the second line, “not just anybody” is especially pertinent. I have recently been working on a work related project where I have had to ask for help–something that I do not usually do in my own life…mostly out of stubbornness and control, but I find myself so much less stressed because I did recently ask for and receive help.

Look for the signs that you are stressed. It is a strong indicator that you should probably ask for some help. For me, I tend to get even more direct than I usually am, and I come off as, or can be, mean (I usually apologize very quickly, don’t judge, I am working on it). Last week I recognized that I could not possibly complete all of the work for a project in a high caliber way, and on time. It was simply too much (I won’t get into the details of why). Whatever signs you personally show when you are stressed, learn to recognize them and leverage them to ask for what you need so that you can relieve some work related stress, if possible (sometimes you just gotta buckle up and give it your best if resources are thin, after all).

Learn to recognize when the workload is too much. For me, in my situation, it was due to the volume of the work, paired with the timeline in which the work needed to be completed. These are two solid indicators that you may need to ask for help. Especially if you are new, and learning the ropes, ask for help when you do not know or do not understand.

Learn who to ask for help. In my case, I had to communicate the context of my own situation to different members of my leadership team than I usually would. Sometimes, asking a colleague for quick help is enough. Other times, you may need to really talk to your manager to get a formal system of help established in order for the project or work to be delivered on time.

Remember, despite your internal dialogue arguing otherwise, everyone wants your company to win, for the project that you are on to be successful–most folks are willing to help, but are just waiting for that question to be popped, so to speak. There is no shame in admitting you need help. I would argue the shame should come when you have access and resources for help, but choose not to leverage those by asking.

Seriously though, ask for help when you need it and can get it.

-Ted Henry

How Do You Know When It’s Time For A Change (professionally speaking)

First, let me say that I am currently extremely happy, professionally speaking (personally I am quite happy as well, if you’re wondering, dearest reader). I am not currently actively pursuing a new role or anything of that nature. With this said, I do often wonder when someone knows it is the right time to start looking for something else in their professional world. Whether it is a promotion within an organization or a new gig with a new crew, it can be really tough and stressful when thinking about or trying to make a career move.

While I may not have all of the answers in this regard, after all, one must follow their heart, I do have context as someone who has worn many professional hats and has pivoted from non profit to the corporate sector in my career journey. That is, I have spent a lot of time pondering the question, “how do I know when it’s the right time to look for and/or accept a new role?”

You are never ready you cocky son of a gun…Yet. Someone once told me that even when folks are indeed ready to take on new roles and responsibilities, that it is very natural to feel that you are not ready. The same person argued that it was exactly the mindset of not feeling ready with a growth and learning mentality that made it the right time for me, and others, to make a move. You may not feel ready, but be ready to learn and you will become that person, if given the opportunity. Trust your skills to learn, you are not an old dog.

Are you burned out? If you feel really burned out from doing the same gig for an extended period of time then it may be time to seek a different role. Truly, feeling burnout could be an indicator that the role and position that you are in is not for you, and it is time to move on. While looking for and accepting a new role is pretty scary, living a life in a job where you do not feel empowered really sucks. If you are one of the lucky ones and have a choice in your career path takes you then empower yourself and go somewhere to find better professional happiness.

While a lot of us may peak in high school, for many others we peak in roles in our professional lives. When you have peaked out in a role, and there is nothing else to learn the role can, for some, become tedious or boring. Again, if you are one of the lucky ones that has a choice in this regard empower yourself to find work that is more stimulating to who you are as a person.

Thinking about looking for or accepting a new role is terrifying for a lot of us. Fear of rejection, job security, benefits, and other considerations are extremely important to the decision. However, if you are, again, one of the lucky few in the world that has some choice in his or her career path then you should leverage that power that you hold. You have worked too hard for that privilege (with some luck) to not leverage it. You deserve professionally happiness.

I Respectfully Disagree

All too often on projects and in teams, members seem too afraid to tell their colleagues when something can be improved upon, or there is opportunity in their workstream of which the colleague may not be aware. It seems to me that all too often teams and projects have an over reliance on leadership members to give them this valuable feedback. The simple fact is that when teams collaborate effectively and are able to given valuable, constructive feedback, the project improves, and the health and the culture of the team gets stronger. That is not to say that there are not bumps in the road, there always are, and will be. This post will give advice on how team members can build the confidence to say, “I respectfully disagree.”

Know your stuff. When you are part of a team or project it is important that you know the ins and outs of what is happening. The more you know, the more you grow. This is true professionally, as well. Having a curious mind about how every workstream works on a team and project can help you size up any opportunities as you seem them, from your perspective. This takes time, collaboration, and tons of research (usually) to understand the ins and outs of a projects. This is especially true if you are a new hire or new team member.

Prepare and rehearse your feedback ahead of time. Most projects have running slide decks with daily updates and helpful information. Usually there is a preview of such decks. Internalize these early, and generate feedback or concerns you may have. Then, rehearse the feedback to build your confidence and feedback chops. Practice really does help.

While being a Devil’s advocate can be helpful in the right situations, do not be the person that just gives feedback to make his or her voice heard. If something is solid and you have an understanding, say so and then move on. When you have valid feedback, please, speak up. Generally folks welcome constructive help on what it is they are doing and the feedback will be welcome.

Giving feedback shows that you are actively involved and are curious about the components of the project and team and across various workstreams. This will serve you well, especially when onboarding to a new role or team. Folks that seek to understand generally are the ones that become process subject matter experts, and are generally the ones that get a lot of responsibility. While responsibility can suck sometimes, it usually leads to really great things in the professional context. Do not be afraid to build up those feedback chops, folks.