Tag Archives: change management

Do you say it’s urgent?


eisenhowerDwight David Eisenhower had a pretty decent career. Supreme Commander of the forces that defeated one of the vilest regimes ever to threaten civilization. 34th President of the United States during one of the most prosperous periods ever experienced by any country in the history of the world.

So who better to turn to as a model for how we use the precious time of our lives? I’m referring of course to the Eisenhower Principle that distinguishes between urgent and important activities. It goes like this: “I have two kinds of problems: the urgent and the important. The urgent are not important, and the important are never urgent.” Rendered as a graphic, the Eisenhower Principle might have looked like this on June 5, 1944.

With all the claims on his time, Ike needed a simple, clarifying way to make sure that things that appeared to be urgent didn’t divert him from things that were assuredly more important—and at the same time, not procrastinate matters that were both urgent and important.

He also recognized that great time management means being effective as well as efficient. We must spend our time on things that are important and not just the ones that are urgent. To do this, and to minimize the stress of having too many tight deadlines, we need to understand this distinction.

When I began to teach managers and employees how to manage their time most productively, I was working with executives from one of the country’s greatest brokerage organizations – ambitious, hard-charging, intelligent executives. But they had in common a failing endemic among high achievers who are not skilled in managing their time: They had trouble distinguishing between urgent and important. So I adapted the Eisenhower Principle to the workplace in the form of Critical Few versus Minor Many.

Our Critical Few are those which, if we neglect them, will have dire consequences for us, whether in business or our personal lives. Our Minor Many are not necessarily insignificant, but they can wait, and their neglect might be disappointing but not dire.

Personal preferences can complicate our reasoning. I get great intellectual stimulation from floating new ideas with my team, and I consider time spent this way to be of the utmost importance. One of my colleagues likes to work out problems alone, doing solitary research. Another likes to solve business problems by putting a pencil to them – working them out in financial terms. Who doubts that these preferences cause all three of us to consider work that we enjoy to be more “critical” than work we dislike?

So, to separate our Critical Few from our Minor Many, the first step is to subject our too-long to-do list to an 80/20 analysis that obviates personal preferences: Which ones deliver more value than the time, energy, and expense it takes to accomplish them?

When clients wrestle with priorities, I take them through the DERSSIM Logic System.

  • Define the problem.
  • Understand the Effects of not solving the problem.
  • Identify the Reason for the problem.
  • Conceive a Solution.
  • SIM stands for the Solution Implementation Methodology.

Which problem, if not solved, has the greatest negative or positive effect? Sometimes the reason for the problem isn’t immediately identifiable, but the effect may require immediate attention.

If an individual is having difficulty breathing, the reason may not be immediately apparent; however, getting the individual to breathe is of utmost importance. In other words, act now on urgent matters.

Even when the reason is apparent, remember that a solution for a problem without a solution implementation methodology is worthless.

So the next time you are faced with way too many obligations, all of which “feel” urgent, take a deep breath, and run them through the DERSSIM Logic System. It won’t take long, and it will quickly clarify things for you. You will end up knowing, with confidence, how you should allocate your next minutes and hours. You will know what is urgent for you when you apply the Important vs. Urgent Test, taking care to apply it objectively to your own situation and needs. We all know people for whom almost everything seems urgent. When my wife answers calls for me at home at inopportune times, she has a habit of cupping her hand over the phone to whisper a reminder to me: “He says it’s urgent, but it might be HIS urgent and not YOUR urgent.” I find that immensely helpful.

Just remember – nobody else can decide your urgent. Learn how to quickly draw those distinctions for yourself so that you don’t suffer those agonizing moments of wondering what to do for whom and when – and almost inevitably, out of a desire to please or clear the decks for your own purposes, doing other people’s urgent, not your own. That’s not the path to career success or life happiness!

Oprah’s biggest regret…wasting time!


Oprah Winfrey

Oprah Winfrey

Even Oprah, a woman who has inarguably made a great deal of her allotted time on this earth, rues time wasted.  On turning 60 she lamented, “I think the hardest part of aging really is recognizing the time that you wasted and the things that you worried about that really didn’t matter…. That’s really the only regret that I have.”

I love her for admitting that.  Because who doesn’t think that way some times?  Who doesn’t cringe to think of how they misspent time, especially when they get a little older and truly realize their time is finite?

I’m 78 and I’m still trying to live up to Oprah’s aspiration.  Time remains my greatest challenge.  Not that I just fritter it away, but managing it isn’t simple.  Just because you know the 80/20 Rule doesn’t mean you know what truly is critical (i.e., your Critical Few tasks that if left undone create serious problems in your life, work, family) or what’s less critical (i.e., your Minor Many).

That is why I am pleased that I have found the solution for both protecting your time as well as improving upon 80/20 planning.

What happens to most people when they try to decide which of the slew of tasks facing them are truly their Critical Few?  When they try to calculate which 20% of those activities will deliver 80% of the value of their endeavors?

They either freeze and can’t decide, or they get into a do-loop where they pick all of them!  Everything looks equally important.  Even if you come to understand the 80/20 Rule, you still need to categorize your Critical Few (the 20%) vs. your Minor Many (the 80%).  Otherwise you will, like Oprah and many other people, end up regretting your misspent time.

Here are five tips for sparing you such regrets:

Tip #1.  Use “Quiet Time” to Make Important Decisions

You cannot freely contemplate how to best spend your precious time when you are surrounded by the events of your “life.”  Things vie for your time day in and day out.

When this happens seclude yourself, if necessary, to find “Quiet Time,” especially if the decisions you’re making are life-altering.  That means go into a relaxed, calm, meditative state of mind.  If you utilize the mantra “calm,” a form of bliss replaces whatever chaos or confusion was an obstacle to your Quiet Time.

Utilize positive self-visualization so that you can receive advice from your very best consultant, that familiar “little voice within” that you typically ignore.  Listen to it.  Now you’re ready for some decisions.

Tip #2.  Differentiate Your Critical Few from Your Minor Many

Lose a job, health, or loved one – that’s when you know with certainty what truly matters.  That’s when you see what I call our “Critical Few” starkly.

But in the absence of a dramatic event, what happens to those Critical Few?  They get lost in the busy-ness of our lives.  Ask me at 7:00 in the morning for my Critical Few, and I reel them off confidently.  Ask me at 2:00 in the afternoon, and I might forget one, add two, throw in a problem that just erupted, and tell you what I want for dinner.  That’s not Critical Few.  It’s Aspiration Salad or what I call the “Minor Many.”

Your Critical Few are those tasks that if left undone will jeopardize your health, job, family, or success.  Everything else is Minor Many.

Tip #3.  Understand Your Priorities

If someone (God forbid) told you your house was on fire, your kid was on his way to jail, and all your clients were leaving, how should you prioritize your actions?  Naturally, all three would make your Critical Few, and maybe you know exactly what you would do first, but some of you would stop and think about the possible outcomes.

When clients wrestle with priorities, I take them through the DERSSIM Logic System.

  • Define the problem.
  • Understand the Effects of not solving the problem.
  • Identify the Reason for the problem.
  • Conceive a Solution
  • SIM stands for the Solution Implementation Methodology.

Which problem, if not solved, has the greatest negative or positive effect?  Sometimes the reason for the problem isn’t immediately identifiable, but the effect may require immediate attention.

If an individual is having difficulty breathing, the reason may not be immediately apparent; however, getting the individual to breathe is of utmost importance.  In other words, act now on urgent matters.

Even when the reason is apparent, remember that a solution without a solution implementation methodology is worthless.

Tip #4.  Establish Time Lock Agreements with Your Time Bandits

A Time Bandit is anyone responsible for wasting your precious time with unwanted, unplanned, and unproductive interruptions. The Time Lock solution provides blocks of uninterrupted time guaranteed by the Time Bandits.  To work successfully, you and your Time Bandits have to mutually agree that during certain times of the day, good friends, colleagues, even your boss, have to abide by the Time Lock Agreement.

Because of Mental Leakage, very often we are our worst Time Bandits.  Thus, we have to make Time Lock Agreements with ourselves.  The method is called Focal Locking, which means bearing down and focusing on your critical tasks during your Time Lock period.

Tip #5.  Train Your Time Bandits

A Basex Research study says U.S. companies lost $588 billion in 2005 because of interruptions.  That number is probably $1 trillion today.  There’s the interruption that throws you off task.  There’s loss of momentum due to the work stoppage.  There’s the time wasted reassembling your thoughts and resources. There’s frustration at having to rebuild them, which dissipates the energy that work thrives on. There is the distress and fatigue of having to make up for time lost.  All of these things can cause errors and the need to do the task over again, which of course takes even more time.

Learn how to handle that deceptively small question by doing what you do with big Time Bandits – be honest, polite, and cheerful in declining.  The cheerful part will be easy once you realize that it feels good to have protected time for your precious Critical Few and to have benefited your Time Bandit as well by restoring focused time to attend to his needs.

Customized Targeted Performance Solutions Podcast


Customized Targeted Performance Solutions – It’s a Continual Process

Johanna Lubahn is Managing Director of Call Center Services for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Go Fast, Leave Skid Marks


skid marksClients often ask how to successfully manage culture change in their organizations, and my first response is to tell them to move quickly. If you allow the change process to drag on endlessly you’ll only meet more resistance. Culture change in an organization is hard to manage, and it requires clear and frequent communication as well as decisive action to be successful.

Here’s a short list of things to remember:

  1. Create and communicate a vision for the future that engages everyone in the organization. Promote it, sell it, and make it exciting. Explain the rationale and necessity of the change. Don’t waste time analyzing the present culture and way of doing business – look to the future.
  2. Question everything. Existing policies and procedures are part of the old culture and may be creating unnecessary obstacles to change. Simplify where possible, using your vision of the future as a guide.
  3. Shake things up – it’s a new day. Restructure, redefine roles, and realign brand, marketing, processes, and incentives so that they reflect where the organization is headed.
  4. Insist on involvement. Everyone must be personally accountable for transforming the culture. If you let team members watch from the sidelines, you increase the odds of resistance.
  5. Break old habits by providing new routines. Assist your teams in transforming the culture by training new skills and behaviors. Redirect training to support the culture change.

Finally, avoid the pain of a thousand small or incremental changes. Go Fast, Leave Skid Marks.

Your thoughts?

Cynthia Leverich is Director of Global Business Development for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Did You See That?


How many times do you hear someone tell you about a movie only to conclude, “You have to see it for yourself”? This happens to me all the time.

But how many times do you hear this in the context of your responsibilities as a leader and coach at work?

Outside of work, we rely on our eyes to inform us about what is going on. We believe that what we see is true…Seeing is Believing.

Isn’t the truth equally important in our responsibilities at work? But so many managers stay in their offices, believing that they can spot opportunity and effectively lead and coach based only on what people tell them or what the numbers say.

Professional sports coaches observe players in practice and during the game. You should do the same with your team.

Get up right now from behind your desk or laptop and go take a look.

Let me know what new truths you discover.

Your thoughts?

Julie Freeman is Regional Director for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Providing Candid Feedback…Why Your Mother Told You Never to Lie


“Always tell the truth.”

Words of wisdom from my Mom and, likely, yours too.

I apply Mom’s advice to my daughter. When she asks me to review a school essay or listen to a presentation, I tell her the truth—what she has done well, what needs to be improved, and how to do so.

My daughter appreciates the truth. Why? Because the truth, good or bad or in between, can help her to achieve her full potential. Telling her everything’s perfect when it isn’t won’t help her write a better essay. Candid and constructive feedback that’s delivered in a caring manner will.

Likewise, great leaders and coaches provide honest feedback, because they want their team members to perform at their best.

Is your feedback candid, so your team members understand their growth potential, or is it so sugar-coated that you are inhibiting their development?

Remember Mom’s advice.

Your thoughts?

Julie Freeman is Regional Director for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc.

Ten Steps to Better Performance


leadership processIf cooking is your thing, you know that you have to follow certain steps for your recipe to turn out right. The right ingredients need to marinate, rise, set, simmer, or blend properly for success in the kitchen.

At Cohen Brown, we don’t teach cooking, but we do support our clients in leading and managing their teams to perform optimally on a consistent basis. So what are the key steps that business leaders and managers can take to coax the highest performance levels from their teams?

The steps are discussed in our Ten-Step Leadership Model:

Vision: Next time you pass one of your colleagues or direct reports, ask them if they know what the company’s vision is. If they don’t, then it’s time to get back to basics. A Vision nobody can remember, or one that’s just mere words on the company website, is as good as worthless. A good way to make the bigger, Company Vision come to life, is by asking “What does this vision mean to me in my role and how does my daily focus contribute to this vision?” People strive when they believe in and own the Vision.

Goals: These are the numerical producers of your Vision. Ask yourself, where do you want to be? And when do you want to get there? Once you and your people set specific Goals, you’ll be compelled to move forward.

Plans: Isn’t it worth planning how you’ll achieve those Goals? I suppose you could completely skip over the planning part and act out all your impulses, but you’ll probably find that you’re experiencing more perspiration than success (or) intended results. Don’t ignore this step. Don’t get too complex with it. Just do it and do it consistently.

Actions: Now that you have your plan, hit that ground running, engage that clutch, do a little dance if you need to. You might be a brilliant planner, but I have to admit the Chinese Proverb says it best: “Talk don’t cook rice.” Or, as Cohen Brown says, “Execution is the chariot of Genius.” Don’t just sit on it. Do something. Engage that Plan!

Results Tracking: You need to find out what’s happening, what’s working, what’s not working, and if you’re reaching your goals. That way, you’ll know what you need to do to refine your Plans and increase productivity. And…you’ll discover Success stories, hence, Proven Best Practices that can be cross-pollinated to others.

Follow Up & Provide Feedback: As a leader, manager or coach, you should provide feedback because that’s what you’re there for. This is your chance to give advice, remind people of their goals, re-direct people who’ve gone off course and show you care.

Motivation: Take it from me, if you follow these steps, you’ll be increasing motivation far more than incentive compensation can do on its own…but getting financial remuneration isn’t too bad either! Just make sure your company’s incentive plan actually reinforces the right behaviours!

Resource Management: Manage your space, budgets, time and people as if they were the last living and non-living resources left over on Planet Earth. In other words, stop blaming what you have or don’t have for not achieving your very best.

Relationship Techniques: You can also manage your work relationships effectively by using these ten steps. Build trust and rapport, know what motivates people, and you’ll surround yourself by those who not only report to you, but truly look up to you.

Well, there you have it. Now it’s up to you to implement these Ten Steps and experience the sweet rewards that come with them. And if you prefer to bake lemon meringue pie instead, don’t forget to add me to your guest list.

Your thoughts?

Neda Bayat is Global Business Consultant for Cohen Brown Management Group, Inc. and Breakthrough PerformanceTech, LLC.