Plate Spinning

Have you ever seen old footage of the Vaudeville acts where they would spin plates? It was masterful work that would amaze audiences. How did they keep the plates spinning?  This is a modern problem in the work force.  How do you stay busy, get busier, and do more than someone else so you’ll earn the raise, earn the bonus, or keep the job you’ve got?  There are some rules to performance that until recently I had much less awareness of.  I had always heard about work-life balance, and even things like avoid scheduling meetings.  But what if those are wrong assertions?

In the book The Power of Full Engagement (Amazon Link | Audible Link) the authors argue for the cultivation of energy so that you can be present and engaged when you need to be somewhere doing something; when you need to spin plates.  The idea is to be deliberate about your sleep, your food, your exercise, and your emotional well being so that the outcome of your life can be performance, not just barely getting by.

So should you keep the plates spinning?  Maybe.  But you need to pick the right plates that will return the most value.  Take the other plates out of your life.  They may be good, but they may not be the best use of your time.  Criteria should be that things that drain energy have an opposing energy creation activity that  you counter-balance with. If you have intense negotiations, for example, then you probably need to have some sort of exercise or positive activity to pair with it in the next 24 hours, preferably before you go to bed the same day.  If I have presentations and planning all day I need to come home and do something that will restore my energy such as woodworking, playing the guitar, or cooking.  I happen to brew beer, but alcohol cannot be my coping mechanism (or any other substance).  Energy needs to be built up, not slowly depleted.

What do you do to manage your energy?

– the MGMT


When I was a young boy my dad built a house. After the foundation was laid the framing began. Framing establishes the walls and the general structure of the house. As it turns out there’s a principle for perspective management called framing as well. With framing we evaluate how we’re looking at something.

For example, the oft told joke about the optimist and pessimist twin boys whose parents decide to test them on their birthday. They both are framing their life with their bents, but that year the pessimist’s present was a new bicycle and the optimist’s present was a pile of manure. The pessimist said, “I’m going to get a flat!” The optimist ran outside and exclaimed, “Where’s the pony? With this much manure there’s gotta be a pony around here!”

As we look at management opportunities ahead of us we see that our teams challenge us. They stretch us. They cause us to have to dig deep. And that, my friends, is the fertilizer for the soil of life.

What’s the framing to help you see the manure as fertilizer for growth?

– the MGMT

The Wheel of Life: Mentoring Others

There’s nothing like hope to take the edge off of risk. There’s a naivete, hope, optimism, and then the negative rest of the list going on down towards, “I am a member of a late 80’s boyband.” Thats bad. Hope is awesome, though, because it cross beyond just being optimistic towards having a goal to execute towards. Change means risk to what is comfortable, to what has been safe, but also to what has been the default. The default, as we’ve said before, is high risk for long term atrophy.

As a manager of people you have to help them connect the dots between where they are and where they’re going to be. You need to help them see how they’re going to get there and what value that presents. I am of the opinion that the super-manager has a hard time when they’re promoted because he has a team of best choices to choose from for his own replacement. That’s because he or she has buried growth and quality so far into the psyche of their team that they all – no matter their core competencies and personality types – are prepared to take on the challenges of leading a team.  The reality is that some people don’t want to be managers, and not all people grow at th same pace. But we’re not here for that discussion, we’re here to discuss how to mentor your direct reports.

Your direct reports are going to need to be presented with the Law of the Lid from the 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership and understand that they’re part of their problem in growth, but also the part of the solution. You want to have already covered their personality profile so they get their strengths and weaknesses from that end. You want them to understand their core competency. And then you want to help them uncover a growth plan that helps them grow as a whole person so that they have specific results they’re after. Growth with purpose. Growth they can celebrate.

This is personal growth, right? So you’re going to give them the list, but you’re also going to give them a framework for the rest of their lives. This is the foundation for Key Result Areas (KRA) that will come later for work related metrics.

The value for the manager in mentoring through these things is to help establish a personal investment and bond. A path of hope, and establishing a baseline for future development. KRA’s will be a logical next step for growing people vs. The standard to work down to for those who don’t care and just see a meaningless metric.

Some tips to consider: make this a personal exercise for your direct report. Don’t force them to share their list, but let them know you’re going to ask how things are progressing and that they’re welcome to share as much or as little as they like.

Ask your direct report if there are any specifics that you can help with personally. Tell them – and mean it – that you want them to grow and you want to celebrate with them as they do that.

What do you wish your managers of the past had mentored you on?

– the MGMT




The Wheel of Life: Applied to You

The wheel of life is one of those things that Zig Ziglar left as a legacy to those who come after him on this planet (and maybe some day off of this planet). It’s the simplest of wheels, but it has a problem: without intentional behavior, you’re going to get flat spots. The list of categories is at the bottom of this post.

Several months ago I sat down with the categories from the wheel of life and wrote down my personal assessment for where I was on a scale from bad, ok, good, great, and perfect. I wrote down my state and then wrote down a specific thing I was going to do to change that part of my life. I wrote it down, and then began acting on those areas. I’m going to be frank: I had let my life float on default for most of 2016 and many areas were just OK or bad. I had to let that sink in. The only area that was good was my spiritual walk, and that should be much better than that!

Now I need to review that list every month and begin to take actions as I progress to fix the flats.

So, why do you need to go through this exercise as a manager? Because you need to develop yourself, and you need to be in a good place to develop your team. Nobody wants to be mentored by someone barely hanging onto OK. And nobody barely hanging onto OK is really in a position to mentor or coach.

So, your assignment here is to pause and write down (or copy from below) the wheel’s categories and do a self assessment. Then come up with a plan to fix your flats!

    Next step:
    Next step:.
    Next step:
    Next step:
    Next step:
    Next step:
    Next steps: 

– the MGMT