Friday, December 20, 2013


Yesterday we sang Christmas songs for friends and elderly. One old man suggested that we go by his neighbours, an elderly couple. We learned that the husband has been looking after his disabled wife for 16 years. When our group of 20+ people entered the little room they were overwhelmed. Their reaction of gratitude and surprise was heartwarming, indeed. The songs sounded just a tiny bit better... I believe, however, they gave us more than we were able to give them.

During the days leading up to Christmas I've had two questions remain with me. The first rewarding question has been:
Is "giving" one of life's hidden secrets?
Are we so busy doing what we do that we sometimes miss the entire purpose of what it's all about? The second question, also rewarding to me is:
Does giving have a price?
The feeling that follows an act of kindness or service is simply sublime. I wonder, maybe giving always requires an effort? Without the effort, it probably isn't a real gift. Anyway, I believe I'll stick to giving this Christmas and the coming year. It feels much better than most other things ;-)

Singing harmonies in spite of a cold, wet and slippery evening.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Is Your Language Filled with "I" and "me"?

Do you want to influence others? Then maybe it's time to be more careful when you say "I" and "me". Once conscious about this, you'll find that in face to face conversations "I" and "me" are hard to eliminate or even reduce.

How often do you say "I" and "me"? Does it matter?

Behavior research is exciting. Maybe the best way to uncover facts is by observation..? Observation often reveals what a survey never can provide. Even worse, a survey can really miss the mark, due to many different factors.

To observe behaviour also means to analyze what people say. As an eager analyst of language, this guy, Vidar Top, has gradually discovered something that might interest you: Among the most frequently used words are "I" and "me". Why is that? And what effect may these words have on others?

Why so Much "I" and "Me"?
There appears to be several reasons for "I" and "me". First of all, most of what we say is subjective, i.e. we relate how we see the world from our own point of view. Secondly, we are mostly unaware of our own bias. Thirdly, and possibly more important than all else, is our self centered style. That self centered tendency is what I would like to address with this little post:
The moment we use "I" or "me" (or "my") the message to our surroundings shifts.
...and usually generates increased risk of "opposing opinions".

When we use "I" or "me" we project our own perspective on others, which usually changes everything.

One of several mechanisms that hits in is the possible antagonism we produce in others. When I give you my opinion, you will immediately begin to interpret and pass judgements, and much more so than when I refreain from using these most sensitive words in our language. Do you think this is something we ought to be more aware of?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

When Life Feels Empty

We could hear each other's breathing.

There was a pause.

Time was standing still.

I knew he was going to share something important...

...something deep and symptomatic:
"You know, Vidar... I've pretty much achieved what I set out to do. Money is not an issue. People know my name and I'm probably perceived as a glamorous celebrity. But you know what..? Sometimes life just feels so empty. In brief moments I feel lonely. My life is filled with people, but real friends are missing. I don't feel as happy as I thought I would be once I reached this point of success in my life..!"
I was talking with yet another CEO.

Talking about what really matters!

It happens a lot.

Underneath that shell of perfect appearance...

...there's always a vulnerable and sensitive person with basic needs.

A boy or a girl that deeply suffers, from time to time.

Life has a way of getting to us.

Getting Personal
These are priceless moments. I wouldn't miss them for all the world. It's one of the many things I love about what I do; personal and meaningful conversations.

It usually moves through stages. During the conversation we dig through three or four layers of problems. Eventually we reach the essence of why the company and some departments are not performing as they should. We've agreed on the needed focus. Then comes the personal stuff and profound reflections. Funny how that works.

I've learnt that very few people come to experience constant richness of life. A state of mind and heart where we feel deeply and fully satisfied, peaceful and happy. Most people experience life as a roller coaster. This need not be!

We rush through life running towards what might seem desirable goals and dreams, but then we arrive and discover... what?! Nothing?

The pursuit was a thrill. We sacrificed a lot. We paid the price, but on the way what really mattered - long term - did not get the needed attention. Important relationships and people were lost to us, books remained unread, health is deteriorating and our conscience is somehow screaming at us.

STOP! Think..! Am I headed towards what really matters..? Or rather, am I doing now what I know I should be doing?

Just Pause
You may want to stop reading now. From here on I'm going to get personal, and you probably have a different point of view. That's fine. You don't need to agree with me. In fact, I'm not asking you to keep reading. If I've inspired you to just pause for a second, I'm glad.

Divine Help
Today I'll share what 'Ive found trumps all else:

One evening, many years ago, before retiring to bed, I felt sad and depressed. I could not explain why, but I knew the feeling very well. I'd been working really hard all day, for weeks, and I felt like a failure. I knelt down and prayed. I poured out all my feelings to my heavenly Father. I felt numb. I didn't want to pray, but I did it anyway. I felt like I had no one else to turn to. Afterwards I got into bed and slept like a baby.

It wasn't until the next morning that I realized all my feelings of depression had left me during the night. Since then I've prayed like this many times, always with the same outcome. It has come to me in different ways, but every time I've received the needed comfort and peace of mind. What a wonderful gift. I don't claim to be special; in fact, quite the opposite. I've just come to know that God really will help when we ask for it in the hour of need.

Here's the irony: Many of us ignore divine help when we need it most. We ignore it during those times when God really could reach us at a moment we indeed might recognize it and know Him. In my opinion, the most beautiful scripture that explains the divine relationship we have with our Father might be from the Doctrine and Covenants section 130 verse 22:
The Father has a body of flesh and bones as tangible as man's; the Son also; but the Holy Ghost has not a body of flesh and bones, but is a personage of Spirit. Were it not so, the Holy Ghost could not dwell in us.
God really sends his Spirit to help us. I know it.

It does help to keep returning to simple acts of kindness and service to others (preferably in secret), but in the end: I know God will not forsake me when I really need him, regardless of how I'm doing.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Are Goals in Reality About Changing Behavior?

(Read in Norwegian)
To reach a goal, do we need to change something? And what is that "something"? Isn't it mostly human behavior? Are goals in reality about changing behavior?

Is it hard to reach a goal? Maybe, maybe not. If hard, then why? Could it be that it's because it demands that we do something we haven't done before? Maybe goals are best summarized with this quote attributed to Albert Einstein:
The definition of insanity is doing the same over and over again and expect different results.
We typically repeat ourselves
Have you ever been the leader of a team and implemented a strategy and a plan? How did it go? Pretty good to begin with? Over time, though... maybe not so good? Maybe these few sad stats might help explain what usually happens:

Failure #1: You present a strategy - only 50% actually understand it
Failure #2: Of those who understand - only 50% know what to do
Failure #3: Of those who know what to do - only 50% actually do it
(Source: Rough numbers provided by FranklinCovey)

...and some of those actually do it don't really care. They just do it because it's their jobb. On top of all this are the 17 pitfalls I've mapped out that causes teams and organizations to fail.

Are goals like art? Well, of course!

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Why is Openness a Winning Wave?

(read in Norwegian)
Why do we participate in online discussions? What is it that drives us? Research is exploring the booming online evolution. There are many factors, but what are the essential drivers?

Personal Needs
Quite a few indicators seem to suggest that one of the main drivers behind online activity is the need to be heard and/or seen. Is this in line with Maslow's hierarchy of needs?

Organizational Needs
In addition to personal motivation there's the need for an organization to receive feedback from the market. Does this provide visibility and innovative power?

Openness Makes for a Tailwind
What happens when we combine a) our personal need for attention and b) a company's need for visibility and feedback? Could it be a near insatiable need for online collaboration?

Maybe a possible conclusion could be:
"Openness creates winners."

If so, the critical question we probably ought to ask ourselves is this:
"Could we influence smarter through greater openness and get better results?"

Monday, August 19, 2013

Simplicity is the Secret

(Read in Norwegian)
It's hard to keep it simple, but once simple it's hard not to succeed. How does one simplify when most of what we do tends to be complex?

There's an inherent struggle behind every success. What is it? It's to break the code of simplicity. Is simplicity important to success? Maybe Leonardo da Vinci summarized it best when he stated "simplicity is the ultimate sophistication"?

Why Catch The Tail Wind of Simple?
Did you ever find that once you were able to simplify something really important but sophisticated, you finally caught the wind in your sails? Many years ago I was heading up a global conference with players from every continent.

More than 30 nations were representend, but we were faced with a huge challenge: "How to communicate the same message to everyone in such a way that it triggered action?"

It was at this time that I discovered the real meaning behind "less is more". For years we had struggled (in reality FAILED) with all to much text, explanations, multimedia, websites and more. But now, instead, we cut it short to less than five words and remained focused on those five words. The result? Action coming our way.

How Do We Get to Simple?
In Norwegian there's a rather famous phrase from REMA1000 that states: "Det enkle er ofte det beste". An idiomatic translation to English might be "Often simple is better". There's a challenge however. Getting to simple isn't easy. Getting to simple is hard (work). In fact, I believe the nack for simplicity is a talent one can develop.

Einstein is often attributed with this quote: "Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Here are 7 key questions to help you reach the power of simplicity:
  1. Do you really understand a problem whose solution has value to others?
  2. Have you defined the solution in simple terms? (e.g. with less than 5 words)
  3. Do people instantly understand it?
  4. Is it timeless and worth a lifetime of study?
  5. Can you make money repeating it?
  6. Does it resemble art by how everybody sees it differently, but every view adds value and a richer perspective?
  7. Will it spread in and of itself?
Conclusion: Simple Comes When You Are Focused
The 15 years I've helped companies get focused I've always found that "simple" is the result of truly getting focused. The staggering beauty of "simple" is focus. That's why focus remains my focus.

If you haven't reached a simple message, a simple product or simple service you are not focused, and the result is what? Your potential customers are not triggered by what is too complicated and therefore you have to do all the work yourself. Good luck with that!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Will Technology be More Personal in the Future?

Are you like me? ...becoming increasingly fed up with settings?

They say "the devil is in the details". Meaning what? That details are important? That details will kill us? Either way, personalizing technology; where will it take us? Will it take more or less of our time?

When I got my first smart phone, setting it up was a thrill. I spent a lot of time getting it "just right". It's different now! When I got my last Android, I hardly spent an effort tweaking it. Why the change?

Less time personalizing because we don't care?
Maybe it's because we've had our phone crash, and we lost everything. Setting it up again just hurts too much..! Or maybe it's because the phone crashed and we didn't lose anything due to a backup. Is it turning into a quick one-time-adjustment and then we can't be bothered to explore all the options?

Less time personalizing because we don't need to?
Maybe it's because the user interface has become so versatile, that it changes so frequently, that the need for variety has been met? Is the technology turnover ratio so high that the personal touch means less? Or is personalizing stuff too stressfull because we have more devices now than we've ever had before?

Less time personalizing because we don't do it?
Maybe it's because everything is moving to the cloud and settings are part of the app, leaving the details to the app developer? We simply pick the app that organizes our data the way we like it. Maybe personalized stuff has been outsourced to others who make money doing so?

Where do you think this takes us? Will personalizing our every-day technology be increasingly important?

Monday, August 12, 2013

Everything Starts with Customers

Sometimes it's hard to put customers first. Sometimes we think that we first need to get everything else in place before we can take care of customers. I propose that it's usually the other way around.

I remember early in my career, I was asked to turn around a company from some serious problems. My suggested approach was "let's find better clients and sell more". Some of the more inexperienced executives were a little frightened at first, but as the projects came rolling in, everything gradually fell into place. (The moral of the story? It's usually better to divide a bigger cake, than to fight over one tiny piece.)

Customers first! is true in every shape and form. Start your day by talking to clients. Prioritize their needs before your own. When the phone rings, if it's a client, take it. Let go of everything else! If you're in a client meeting, make sure someone else is available to answer your phone.

Coming up is an exciting sales training seminar in Porsgrunn. You may want to attend. Why? Because if you want to fix your current problems, and they may not seem related, better and more business always seems to fix most of what we're struggling with.

Monday, July 29, 2013

You May Be the Beginning of a New Generation

When looking for the good in others we learn at least this one lesson: We each are of infinite value, and there is much to learn from the example of many great people.

One of the reasons WHY I collect a "List of Great People" is the inspiration and motivation I feel comes from noticing and admiring individual qualities of family, friends and connections. We really do not need to look far to spot a hero. They are all around us!

I'm currently reading "Mark of a Giant: Seven People Who Changed the World" (which, again, was given me be a friend I admire for a long list of wonderful attributes). In it I find that we all can change BIG through SMALL consistent behavior in what we believe in.

While spending two years as a missionary I had the privilege of serving with Gregory Cox. Last week I was blessed to be reunited with him and his family. Here's one of many thoughts that came to me:
In 1993 Greg and I were just two boys. During our momentous reunion we rekindled a most precious friendship. However, this time we were surrounded by our families. That we as parents somehow will pass on a legacy is an understatement, but to imagine that down the road hundreds and maybe (long term) even thousands of descendants will follow blows my mind. A house full of people is certainly a wonderful beginning, though.
Who would've thought: "Two boys reunited...
Just like one can count the seeds in an apple, but not the apples from a seed, in each one of us lies the potential to change and improve an entire generation. Needless to say, today I'm adding Greg to my list of great people for the honesty and sincerity he possesses, and thus being among the best friends I could ever wish to have.

...together with a bunch of wonderful individuals!" ;-)
Two quotes in particular provide perspective to what I feel right now:
"No success can compensate for failure in the home." (David O. McKay)
"It is more noble to give yourself completely to one individual than to labor diligently for the salvation of the masses." (Dag Hammarskjold)

Friday, July 5, 2013

Are We Trying to Catch Happiness?

Maybe happiness isn't caught as much as it's brought. Meaning what?

In our lives it appears there are two kinds of happiness:

(1) Caught Happiness?
We see it and we want it. It's easy to find, simply because we can "touch" it. This kind of happiness is instant and can feel overwhelming caused directly by the activity itself. It seems to last for brief intense moments and then "disappears". Sometimes it is competitive in nature. Here might be some examples:
  • Riding a rollercoaster
  • Watching fireworks
  • Eating a hamburger
  • Winning a contest
  • Falling in love
(2) Brought Happiness?
We do not naturally see it, and sometimes we even think we don't want it. It takes effort to find, simply because the effects are seemingly invisible. This kind of happiness comes to us gradually as a consequence of something we did. It seems to last longer and grows. Often it's something we do together. Here might be some examples:
  • Serving others
  • Sharing feelings
  • Reading inspired literature
  • Creating something
  • Being in love
In trying to "catch" happiness we might miss the mark. In my experience, the first kind of happiness is sweeter if I include other people in it and turn them into memories. Is the greatest happiness caught by us or is it brought to us? Maybe it's just a wordplay, but it might be worth a thought..? What do you think?

Today I'm adding my own father, Dirk Cornelis Top, to my list of great people. Why? Because he has lived his life in the second category, and whenever he spent time in the first he only did it for us.

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Easiest Path Requires The Greatest Effort

There are two things about a smile that's worth drawing a lesson from, and together I think they teach a priceless principle.

First, it takes less strength to smile than to be sad.

Second, it's easy to forget. Yes, most of us simply forget to smile, myself included.

What can we learn from these two combined? Ironically, the easiest path requires the greatest and most constant effort (i.e. long term, of course).

Antithesis: The toughest path is to pursue a course of least resistance.

So, I suggest, "easy is harder", regardless of how we define "easy". Why? If we think of easy as a short-cut or a form of instant gratification, the consequences will surely punish us around the next bend. If, on the other hand, by easy we mean long term smartness, of necessity we pay a hard price in the moment.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

The Art of Smart Living

Why are some more successful than others? What makes the difference? How could we go about our life getting more of what we want?

Some people just get to where they want to go a lot faster than others. For some it's simply because they cheat on life itself. That's not what I'm talking about. The question is: How can I do what I do in a smarter way?

In 1995 I discovered a two-sided key that has been priceless to me...

In my opinion, some of the secret behind a happy life is the principle of a proactive lifestyle. Proactive meaning what? Most people view proactive as being "ahead of the game", but to me proactive means so much more. Consider this scenario that explains the dilemma we're all struggling with on a daily basis:

Picture yourself in a boat. Rowing is your main task, which eventually brings you to your destination. Oaring a steady course on the rippling water, you discover the boat is leaking. In fact, there are several holes causing the vessel to sink. Consequently, you hose water and then you row a little. Rowing and hosing works, but slow as it is, unstopping the hole would be smart. Also, every so often, you're forced to apply one of the oars to hit and fight off some Alligators circling around.

In Stephen Covey and Roger Merrill's book "First Things First" they present their findings in what is called "Time Management Matrix". What's the secret? Well, in relation to the above scenario, hosing water is important, but more pressing than anything is unstopping the hole(s). If you can organize yourself in such a way that you repair the leaks on a regular basis, the dividends on all the other key activities as a whole is phenomenal.

Therefore, the ongoing battle is "freeing up time to stop the leaks". That's secret part #1. Below are some examples of where you want to invest your time:
  • Delegate and educate others + clarify expectations
  • Build strong relationships with key people
  • Evaluate and implement that new learning
  • Establish systems and routines
  • Set long term and short term goals, write them down, communicate them
  • Plan yearly, monthly, weekly and daily
  • Sharpen the saw (renew your spirit, body, social and mental capacity)
  • Stay on top of information (organize regular and automatic updates)
Notice that secret part #2 is just as important, which is: "Most of the time you invest is found when you want to relax and usually tend to do less important things".

What's the difference then? Successful people are willing to give up less important things (often spare time) doing more of the above - unstopping the holes.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

The New Digital Age

The years ahead will confront us with potentially life altering questions. Much more so, major international events and change, if not immediate, are in our future.

Lillian and I have been married for a little more than 17 years, and yesterday we briefly looked back on what has happened during that time. For sure, much has changed, and change only seems to speed up - in every respect.

Having read Eric Schmidt's and Jared Cohen's book "The New Digital Age" my awareness of what the future holds has again grown to a higher level. Coupled with the recent news about PRISM and Edward Snowden's courageous whistleblowing, we are witnesses to a complex situation which plays out on "both sides" (depending on how one sees the world).

In particular, I believe Schmidt and Cohen are right about China:

"...China's future will not necessarily be bright. Some interpret projections of declining economic growth, an aging population and technology-driven change as indications that the Chinese state will soon be fighting for survival in its current form, while others suggest instead that these impending challenges will ultimately spur even more innovation and problem-solving from China. But ultimately it is difficult for us to imagine how a closed system with 1.3 billion people, huge socioeconomic challenges, internal ethnic issues and robust censorship will survive the transition to the new digital age in its current form. With greater connectivity will come greater expectations, demands and accountability that even the world's largest surveillance state will not be able to control fully. In instances where law enforcement goes too far or cronies of the regime engage in reckless behavior that causes physical harm to Chinese citizens, we will see more public movements demanding accountability. Because ministers loathe embarrassment, pressure from weibos and other online forums can result in more pressure and change, eventually curbing the excesses of one-party rule."

Change is upon us, and, certainly, in ever increasing speed.

Today I'm adding Edward Snowden to my List of Great People - not because he wants the recognition, but because he's willing to dedicate his life to liberty. May we all be united in the same noble cause.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Engage by Increasing Trust

How do we get people fired up and engaged? Answer: By working on trust.

You can do much good as a leader when you involve everyone in developing a great plan. But here's what I find most people believe "wrongfully":
We will succeed because the goals are good and the plan brilliant.
Not so! Results will demand valiant goals and a waterproof plan, for sure. But more important than everything else is --the process-- that brings about the plan. People need to trust each other, the leader and the organization. Trust can be built as you interact and plan together. So here might be a better paradigm:
We will succeed mostly because we execute as a team and trust each other.
Here's my former colleague, Stephen M.R. Covey, offering hard data to explain this point.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Getting Results

So what does it take to get results? Let's cut to the chase.

The mother of all success is a baby with three basic qualities.

In today's social, sharing and connected world, it seems everyone wants to answer this question. Every hour scores of articles are published providing different kinds of answers to this very question. If you were to distill the essence of it all - the read thread - the road to change and improvement remains the same:

(1) See it
Dream of it. Want it. Continually reaffirm purpose.

(2) Do it
Focus on what needs to be done and stay the course. Be consistent.

(3) Get it
Learn on the way. Make changes as needed. Be open. Enjoy it.

How to get results? Keep working on these three and everything else turns out to be simply subtitles or footnotes and technique.

Monday, May 6, 2013

His Suffering Beyond Comprehension

Physical or mental pain and suffering is something we're all subject to. Spiritual suffering, however, may be a type of suffering we may not fully understand.

This morning I was running on the treadmill while listening to Boyd K. Packer and Dean M. Davies. Their inspired words lead me to ponder our great exemplar, whose name I suppose is too sacred to mention by name too frequently.

When I exert myself by running or in any other physical (or mental) endeavour, there always comes a point where I decide "I've had enough" or "I feel this might be sufficient" - even "healthy" or "necessary". Such must've been the case with Him also.

There are two aspects I keep reflecting on still, following this year's Easter: (1) His suffering in submission to the Father's will and duration. (2) His suffering beyond death. I wonder if our ultimate quest, i.e. beyond the veil and the life to come, could be to fathom or even fully appreciate the suffering He bled and died for us.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

I Feel... Therefore You Should..!

Do you ever get frustrated with people who have all the answers, but that seldom will help get the job done? Of course you do. Why? Because they outnumber, by far, the people who carry the load.

In whatever role I'm in, whether it be extended family, work, church or community, in general, I witness two kinds of people.

And amazingly so, I find that there's not much of a type of person "in between"... I mean, either the engine is roaring and there's movement, or the engine is off and no speed or action.

...two types of modes, and it's deeply rooted:

TYPE 1: Passionate and Caring
These people have had experiences that opened their eyes. They have discovered that life has meaning and purpose. Most significantly, they act on it and maintain positive feelings and a desire to lift others, even though they are faced with rejection by the very people they try to help.

They don't quit trying. Their heart is in the right place. They don't need attention or glory. Some of them go through deep challenges, but the level of commitment exceeds their own pain in such a way that they're able to lose themselves in the service of others.

These individuals are easy to spot by the basic attitude of "yes, I want to help". The best of them are not told what to do, but will simply walk up to you and suggest ways to support the cause.

Their style is asking questions and listening to advice. They are slow to critize others and keep looking for ways to improve themselves. Their lifestyle is often filled with reading books, planning and getting organized and things that will keep them balanced.

TYPE 2: Reactive and Self Serving
These people may have discovered the benefit of helping others, and it may have given them good feelings from time to time, but they have not yet understood their mission beyond that which is "their own". They tend to be over-protective of their own family and react with anger or agression when others don't take care of them.

In any social setting, their main objective is to make sure they themselves feel good. They will respond if, and only if, they get the role of leader, and in that moment they will demand the full support of others. They can be tactful and clever, oh so brilliant and emotionally engaged, but deep inside they don't really care.

These individuals take time to figure out. They will often have the appearance of professionalism, deep philosophical insight, a busy schedule and even a track record of success. But when asked to do something small or seemingly insignificant they will not even show up.

Their style is probably the most revealing pattern I've found. What is it? They tend to practice the pattern of giving advice, such as: "I have studied this for a number of years, therefore you should...", "the past two years I've found that... therefore the way to do this is...", or better yet "I feel... so everyone else should...".

What To Do?
Maybe it's the most basic leadership question there ever was? What can we do to help them? I mean, we've all been there, right?

I wonder if, in many ways, there's a very basic switch inside each one of us. Maybe when it's turned on it says: "I want to help others and I don't worry so much about me and myself, because when I keep giving, somehow I will be all-right...". And then, when the switch is turned off, it says "I'm going to spend all my time taking care of me, because if I do, eventually I'll feel better than I do right now...".

I keep telling myself that the best approach must be to ignore (and be patient with) the details and make an appeal to that switch inside others. The most important thing, long term, might be that they feel we care..? Maybe that will turn them on, eventually?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Negotiating a Winning Deal

Whether you negotiate a USD 20 million deal or a minor business transaction, many of the principles remain the same. What's important to negotiate a winning deal?

So I told our client: "When negotiating, never give in without getting something in return." For instance, you might say: "OK, so if we're going to offer you... What will you give us in return?" Give and take may be an old idea, but it works.

Another action easily forgotten is "when the balance shifts to loose-win, share feelings". There's no need to get emotional. In fact, emotional is counterproductive. However, in my experience, when the going gets tough, it helps to share how you feel. Why? Because no one can disagree with or attack how I feel or perceive an open discussion. Any professional will want to maintain mutual benefit to increase the value and validity of a contract.

A few examples of negotiation principles you may want to consider...
  • Before you begin, specifically decide your desired outcome.
  • Do the needed research beforehand about what the other party wants most. (No guessing!)
  • Communicate win-win in everything you do (...and mean it!).
  • Practice empathy, not sympathy. Summarize as often as you can to make sure you understand the other point of view.
  • Always respond with "Mhm..." (which is a neutral reply) when you sense you are getting emotional e.g. because you are being misunderstood or treated unfairly or with disrespect. Give yourself time to think before reactively acting out your intuitive agression.
  • If you can outnumber them, do! Two-on-one equals brain power.
  • Create a mental picture and attitude of "wealth" or (generate a) list of all options. Make sure you can truly turn down their offer at any time. Get busy being in a strong position!
  • Ask questions when you encounter rejection or "no".
  • Remember: It is better to go for "no deal" than "a bad deal". If you fail to agree agreeably, agree to disagree agreeably. The outcome usually is a better, more respectful, relationship, which lays the groundwork for an even bigger deal next time around.
  • Don't rush it! We always treat negotiations as a growing process. Be careful to list all your arguments from low to high priority. Save the best arguments for last - progressively!
Spending time and resources learning how to negotiate winning deals is worth a solid investment.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Families Are for Talking

Just talking together as a family is probably what gives me the best of feelings. Just talking is not just talking. It's when I feel our family is a family.

I consider myself privileged having had a family throughout my life. I know wonderful people who do not have a family and who wish they had. My prayer is that they may one day have one.

I also believe I know families who sometimes take family members for granted. This is just as sad as the former group. Maybe I sometimes am guilty of this myself, but I try not to be.

How do we not take our family for granted? In my opinion, the best way to be a family is to speak with one another. Conversation is priceless. Families are for talking.

I have precious memories from family dialogue. With today's hectic lifestyle we might lose track of what really matters. Let's savour those special moments when sharing thoughts and feelings take place.

Caught reading with the kids and I'm glad this picture was taken.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Humility Makes All the Difference

Humility is of the essence. Why? When failure persists, failure fails. But when failure is acknowledged and made up for, failure is success.

So this morning I had a thought I'd like to share...

People love someone who cares, right? At least I do. If my leader is anxiously engaged in me and my welfare, I very much appreciate that. Complacent or indifferent leaders are simply so NOT what we want.

I'm not saying that we need a leader who's "all over us". All I'm saying is, we need leaders who are emotionally invested in our success. Of course, how to passionately lead is highly unique from person to person.

Now, here's the thing. Everyone makes mistakes - leaders included. Except for Jesus, no one is perfect, right? That leads me to my conclusion about what kind of a leader (or person) I want to be:

The Humble Leader Matrix

Consider the matrix above...

Given that everyone sometimes make mistakes - we don't want to, but we do - what really makes the difference must be humility. Why? Because the worst thing must be the fear of doing something wrong and not do anything (or abstain from needed action).

Of course, what we strive to achieve is excellence, which could be for instance a) asking a lot of questions before we execute, b) learn and stick to best practice or 3) double check with a better partner or colleague to assure quality etc. But the sumum bonum of all this is: "Mistakes happen!" And when they do, what is required is a leader that has the heart to invest his or her strength to say "I'm sorry".

Saying "sorry" for real hurts! That's why true leadership implies regular pain. I commit to feel more of that pain. Ya think..!?

Monday, March 18, 2013

Clear Moments

Moments of clarity are valuable stepping stones. The question is: What do you do when you experience them?

Clear moments come to each of us. To some of us more than others. There's much you can do to increase clarity, but that's a different subject, right now.

What do you do when you get a glimpse of the big picture? It may be a project, an important problem at work, a family issue or even a reflection of life itself. The best ideas disappear as quickly as they come.

I'd say, write it down or make a drawing and retain the good stuff as you go. To do so, everyone who's serious about this should have a system to take notes and put it into a smart structure. Not only should we take care of good ideas, we also need to organize them so they're readily available when we need them. And possibly most important of all, that they come back to us when we've forgotten all about them.

This could be the introduction to a lengthy article, but here's what I'll do instead, and it's probably much better than offering specific advice: Make your own system. Decide now how you will be a worthy custodian of inspiration and significant change in your life.

Why? Because it's easy to spot the difference in someone who does and someone who does not. Maybe not for everyone, but the people that can lift you to higher levels; trust me, they know. They know!

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How to Live with My Flaws?

The longer I live the easier I see my flaws. I guess that's life, right?!

By flaws I mean "the stuff I probably won't be able to change", ever. It's the annoying trying traits of me and my person I'll struggle with for the rest of my life. The kind of price my wife, family and friends have to pay just to be around me.

But somehow I've picked up another valuable lesson. Want to hear it..?

When I engage myself in selfless service for others my flaws are almost as it were hidden somewhere in the background. The way I see it, this must be one of life's secrets; focusing on being good to others and losing our ego. That's one of many reasons why I will keep seeking those opportunities to be good to someone - today.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Self Esteem is the Greatest Gift to Children

If life has taught me anything, one valuable lesson must be this: "The greatest gift parents and teachers can give children is a powerful self esteem.

When I see how individuals perform, their productivity levels, the ability to creatively solve problems and the degree to which someone takes initiative when initiative is needed, it almost always comes down to that person's self esteem. Would you agree?

If this is important, the question that really matters could be:
"What behavior has the greatest influence on how we instill self confidence in others?"
I feel deeply sorry for children who grow up in an environment where parents or teachers hurt them for life. What is that one type of behavior that we possibly could change over night that profoundly affects self esteem in others?

The Sum of Small Words ang Signals
What is the sum of what we are saying to our children? Is it "I'm proud of you", "you have valuable talent" and "so happy to be in your presence"? What do we communicate between the lines? In any family, school, company or social setting we can...
...move from negative criticism to positive affirmations
Let's switch from catching people doing something wrong to highlighting the good. Quit criticizing. Stop it! And if we must provide guidance, let's do it lovingly one-on-one.

If the change from negative to positive is hard to make, you know what that means, right? It may be the first indicator of our own suffering self esteem.

Today I'm adding my own mother, Catharina Maria Top, to my List of Great People, because she offered lots of positive affirmation during my upbringing, for which I'll forever be grateful!

Monday, February 18, 2013

What is Search Costing You?

Looking for information is free, but the time spent looking for information is not free. In fact, if you seriously measured you and your colleagues' search cost, you'll find it's probably one of the largest hidden costs your company has.

If you're a so-called knowledge worker 15-35% of your time is spent looking for information (and most likely it's closer to 35% than 15%). Also, my own studies reveal that once the information is found, only 20% of the time (i.e. on average) is spent actually reading it.

Here's another way to put it: "We spend a large amount of time searching, and once we have it, we almost instantly store and ignore it, link it or postpone digesting it".

Is this effective use of our time and strength? For some this may be OK. For me it's not. What can be done? Here's what I would suggest.

First, view information differently. You can change your paradigm by asking...
  1. Do I know when I'm searching? (RECOGNIZE)
  2. Do I know why I'm searching? (STOP OR FILTER)
Second, apply a new skill set and tools. Ask yourself...
  1. Do I know how to search? (MASTER)
  2. Can I reduce my time searching? (OPTIMIZE)
(1) Recognize the Search
First of all, accept the fact. Know that the stats for "information overload" probably apply to you as much as anyone. Yes, a third of your time may be spent looking for information. Consider each moment of the day, from looking for documents and taking care of email to googling and browsing through web pages.

I encourage you to convert your estimated search time to monetary value by calculating the cost. Then, decide to reduce that cost by replacing old habits with improved and smarter patterns and systems.

(2) Stop the Search
Once you're conscious about when you're searching, you can start dealing with the problem. Before you look up information, always commit to decide: Will I read, link or store it? If you do, you may find that a little less than half of your search queries are not really important. Try it!

(3) Master the Search
An employee's value is highly related to his or her ability to find and make use of relevant information. Just a very few basic principles will make an impactful difference, for instance:
(4) Optimize the Search
Most people think of a search engine when there's talk of looking up information. However, believe it or not, the majority of our time is still related to offline material. Interestingly enough, pictures, documents and even physical paper makes up a large part of the equation. A significant amount of time is spent on getting information from others.

In general, here are some quick bullets with basic advice:
  • Get rid of paper if you can - if you must store paper - oganize it!
  • Never produce content on a local disk or server - store it in the cloud. (Note! A few years ago this was still considered poor counsel.)
  • Scan, tag and digitize your own information. Avoid printing it!
  • Only produce content that's automatically indexed.
  • Know "who knows what" and make sure to have easy access to these individuals. Be available to them and ask them to be available for you. Build strong relationships with key people.
  • In general, for each search problem find a better and faster solution by using existing software and browser tools (e.g. install Google Quick Scroll).
My conclusion has been this: Instead of spending mye strength on finding information, I try to focus my attention on digesting knowledge to seek wisdom.

Attend our training event on "How to Save Time with Google" the 14th of March in Porsgrunn.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pride in the Workplace

Is pride in the workplace an issue? Would things be different if we knew how to deal with our ego? Here's food for thought; how to first deal with our own tender feelings, then help others.

One of the most valuable notions I picked up during my growing up is probably this:
"The world is not logical - it's psychological"
For instance, when I disagree with another person, whether it be in the present or about something in the past, I can always trust this principle:
Try to understand the other person from their point of view and you've found the "truth".
Knowing that my perception of how things are, in fact, can be priority # two, I can always take the initiative and apologize first in light of how the other person perceives me and the problem.

What a wonderfully simple, yet powerful, guideline this is: When we sincerely apologize for our behavior from the perspective of the other person, it not only becomes easier to do so. It immediately increases mutual understanding and respect. We can talk about the real issues, from both perspectives, without attacking each other personally.

Through all my years in consulting I find that this one concept alone makes a big difference. When we learn to practice understanding the other first, there's always a solution to be found. And it begins with getting off our high horse by saying: "From your point of view, how have I hurt your feelings..?"

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Creating a Tipping Point for an Online Movement

When creating an online movement, what is the tipping point for virtual self growth? And what does it require to reach such a tipping point?

Do you want a tipping point online? Do you want e.g. an online community to self recruit and grow all by itself? This is not as difficult to achieve as you might think. Creating an online movement is beautifully illustrated by +Derek Sivers in the media clip below.

The thing about tipping points is, it varies based on fluctuating criteria (such as quantity or quality), but remains the same with respect to a few simple principles. Do not mistake criteria for principles, and your experience will be like mine. For instance, keep in mind:
Principle # 1: An online tipping point is preceded by intensely focusing on one idea.
Over the years I've created several movements. Every one of them grew by carefully selecting a focus. To create an online movement it helps to be unique in a niche area, preferably the only one, if you can. Once you've found your focus, search for the right people and invite them to invite others. Then, stick to it on a daily basis and repeat until you see exponential growth.
Principle # 2: An online tipping point occurs when the self interest of the target group is met.
People are driven online to obtain some kind of (selfish) objective. The best way to effectively make use of this is by indirectly serving them in that particular need. Don't just start something online without thinking this through. Know the need, then do what you do to fullfill it, and users and members will come running.