Posts Tagged ‘Success’

There is a practice on Twitter called #followfriday. The point is to share about who you are following that you think others might be interested in following as well. It is also an opportunity to appreciate people for their contribution to you. And it was a really great thing. At least it was for a while.

Unfortunately good ideas can be executed badly and/or misused to the point where their purpose gets lost and their value gets diminished. Seth Simonds suggests this is exactly what has happened to #followfriday in his post Out with #FollowFriday and In with Connected Communities.

I agree with him, although I am not ready to abandon it quite yet.

I think if those of us who believe in its original purpose provide some leadership it could once again be a valuable practice that can deliver on its promise to the twitter community. In fact I think some people have continued to operate true to the original intent.

Yet what is most compelling to me is that this is not just a twitter story.

We can learn a lot about leadership and organizational behavior from observing what has been happening here. In fact, I’ll suggest that what has happened with #followfriday is a common phenomenon in communities of all kinds.

All too often programs are initiated in the spirit of doing something meaningful and aspirational, yet degrade to the point of becoming meaningless and even fueling resignation and cynicism. And yes I would call #followfriday a program because, while it is not formally administered in any way, it is a structured approach to accomplishing a goal. The goal here, as I understand it, is to connect and appreciate people.

Programs for acknowledgment and appreciation are particularly common in formally organized communities. Employee of the Month, Sports Awards Events, and Character Counts Certificate Programs are examples. Some work well, even leading to desired and lasting changes in behavior, and some do not.

Just like #followfriday, programs usually start out with noble intentions.

Yet we have all seen at least some of them fail to live up to their initial promise: awards are given that end up being meaningless to the recipients, distrust can be fueled when people believe the “panel” chose their favorites over the people who were really deserving, we have to pinch ourselves just to stay awake at a supposed celebratory event, etc.

Here are three signs a program is failing to deliver on its promise, followed by 3 things we can do about it.


1. We lose sight of why we started the program to begin with.

Our mood when engaging in anything to do with the program does not match the spirit of the program’s intent. Resignation replaces enthusiasm and a sense of doing something that really matters. As a result we go through the motions with little sense of satisfaction.

2. Expectations take the place of authenticity.

We start feeling obligated rather than motivated to participate. And we start making our choices based on our considerations (e.g. will someone feel left out) rather than our commitments (e.g., wanting to acknowledge someone who you really believe stands out).

3. Individuals figure out how to work the system for their own personal gain AND we let them take over.

People start trying out new ways to manipulate the system so they win. We start to behave in ways and/or see behavior that is inconsistent with the original intent. And more often than not we do not say a word. We wait and hope someone else will intervene, or people will see the error of their ways, or we start complaining about “them”. We may just abandon the program altogether or sit on the sidelines hoping it just goes away.


1. We can wake people up. That includes ourselves! Until I read Seth’s post I continued to go along even though something did not seem quite right. I thank him for holding up the mirror so I could wake up to what this was really all about once again.

Waking people up to their commitments is an act of leadership. However, be forewarned that it can initially make them angry because it can feel like you just got hit with a cold bucket of water. But if they are truly committed they will thank you for it later!

2. We can take personal responsibility. That starts with owning our part in the breakdown. I clearly played a part in the degradation of a once fabulous practice called #followfriday. One example is that I got lazy by posting lists of names instead of taking the time to share why I though someone was worth following.

Responsibility is not about beating yourself up though. If you are human you will at least occasionally get caught in the drift. It is what you do once you are awake that really matters because that is when you can choose to do something different (or not).

3 questions to help you get back on track when you have list your way are: 1 – what am I committed to here?, 2 – what could I do?, and 3 – what will I do?

3. We can take action. Do something to put things back on track OR choose to stop. If it is worthwhile take the point of view that success or failure is up to you and take action accordingly. On the other hand, letting something that isn’t working continue on because no one wants to admit it is not working is exhausting for the people involved and potentially damaging to the organization. Choosing to end something or offering an alternative way to accomplish the same goal can be very empowering.

Our willingness to provide leadership to any program can make the difference in whether or not it will succeed. It does not matter whether we are “in charge” or not. Our leadership still matters.


Look around you. Are you part of a program that is not living up to its promise? If so, what are you going to do now?

As for me, I have not given up on #followfriday. As a start I am going to stop just listing names and start making meaningful recommendations once again.


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Much has been written about flow and being in the present moment. I have read a ton of it, searching for keys to experiencing more flow in my life and work. I can work so hard at times that I exhaust myself in the process. There have also been too many times in my life when I have worked like crazy and not been particularly satisfied with the outcome or the journey. Does this sound familiar? When I look around at my family, friends and clients I know I am not alone in those experiences. Of course we have all had times of flow as well. However, it can be challenging to find your way back once you get off track.

When Christine Comaford asked us, a group of highly motivated entrepreneurs, this question, I had one of those “aha” moments. It is such a simple yet potent question. It is a simple context for observing your experience in any given moment. What makes it potent is that it also gives us a very clear choice that we can make to shift our experience immediately.

Take a moment and think about these two words. I am not asking “what do they mean?”, but rather “what do they feel like?”.

While both words imply moving forward, each provokes a very distinct experience. If you have ever watched a world class dancer or athlete they make their execution of extraordinary skills seem effortless to us as the observer. They are not trying to get to the end of the performance or the game. They are focused on executing flawlessly in each and every moment. Runners are taught to relax into their stride rather than to push themselves to the finish line. It actually conserves precious energy. Champions, while their eye is in the prize, learn to stride in their execution. If you want to be a champion in whatever you do or even just enjoy the journey more I suggest you learn to stride more and strive less.


In our society, particularly our business culture, there is a lot of attention on achievement. People are striving to be the best and to do their best. And there is certainly nothing wrong with either. Some of us even thrive on the adrenaline rush that often comes along with the drive to succeed. Yet the way we go about achieving anything can either fuel us or leave us exhausted and/or unsatisfied. We can spend too much time thinking and worrying about the future that we forget to be present in the only moment we have, right now. We can work really hard trying to do everything and go as fast as possible only to end up exhausted. We can get so caught up in all we have to do that we miss the moments in our lives that are truly the most precious. Perhaps the most surprising cost of all is that we can achieve extraordinary things and be left feeling unsatisfied, like it is somehow not enough or that we haven’t gotten “there” yet.


The simple answer is we know it when we feel it. So at best I can attempt to describe the feeling from my own point of view. Nonetheless I’ll give it a shot. I invite you to answer this question in your comments as well.

My first thought is that striding is like flow – that experience when everything just seems to be clicking. We lose track of time. It takes effort, yet feels effortless. We feel inspired and often make remarkable progress. And when we step away from what we are doing, we have this intense level of satisfaction knowing we just did some of our best work.

My second thought is that perhaps the difference between striving and striding can be the difference between working hard and working smart. Chances are if you are working at a frenetic pace, feeling pressured and stressed out you are striving.


A final note of thanks… A few weekends ago I participated in a workshop called the Business Acceleration Intensive with Christine Comaford of Mighty Ventures. I want to thank Christine, Paul Keetch and the participants in BAI for sharing your wisdom, your inspiration and for your incredible support. Somehow I think I will be striding a lot more knowing I have all of you in my corner.

If you want to experience Christine’s coaching I suggest you go to http://www.AskChristine.com and register for her next free teleseminar. If you do I highly recommend you submit a question.

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