Choosing Three Words for 2011

If you’ve followed my Twitter stream (@timage) you might have noticed that I don’t put much stock into New Year’s Resolutions. Here’s a few of my thoughts…

  • Why wait for 1/1/11 to make that change? Start today! Your resolution needs a bigger reason than the calendar.
  • 1/1/11 is not motivation enough to change. Decision + Discipline + Purpose = Daily Growth!
  • Please don’t tell me you’re making a New Year’s resolution! If you need to make a change, start TODAY!

I did give in a little bit as today (1.1.11) drew closer. I went ahead and offered my resolution:

Five Perspectives To Evaluate Your Experiences: #5-Recruit

If you whittle down your definition of leadership to its most basic function, it’s about people. I recently posted this on Twitter: Leadership is all about how people react to what we say and do.

When you take the time to reflect and evaluate your experiences, there will be certain tasks that you will want to repeat (redo) and tasks you should never do again (revoke). There will be tasks that might only need to be tweaked or changed a little (revise). There will even be things that went well, by your own effort or the effort of others, that you need to recognize (reward). But if you’re a leader, you must take a close look at the people involved in your evaluation process.

Five Perspectives To Evaluate Your Experiences: #4-Revise

Most every professional athlete who reaches the top of his or her respective sport will tell you that it took a lot of hard work and practice to get there. Malcom Gladwell calls this the “10,000 hour” rule in his book, Outliers. It’s a process of focusing on a very few things and honing them to the point that the basics become second nature and the execution is nothing short of remarkable.

It’s not trying to learn how to do 5000 things well. It’s learning 5 things and doing them 5000 times.

The secret for greatness isn’t getting to a point where one doesn’t need to practice anymore, but it’s realizing that greatness comes from practicing the right things in a consistent manner.

When it comes to the evaluation process – the fourth perspective of revise comes into play here.

Five Perspectives To Evaluate Your Experiences: #3-Reward

Our lives are filled with rituals. There are things that we do on a daily basis that take on a ritualistic feel – the way we care for ourselves, the meals we eat, the daily commutes we make, etc.

Evaluating one’s experiences can be a type of ritual, a traditional exercise that marks the conclusion of an experience. For me personally, an experience doesn’t have a sense of closure until I’ve taken a moment to reflect and evaluate what took place.

Closure helps people to move forward, to take the energy that is being exerted toward one experience and move on to something else. A lack of closure can leave a group of people hanging. It makes one feel like things are unresolved or unfinished. A lack of closure can wear a person out.

Five Perspectives To Evaluate Your Experiences: #2-Revoke

One of the most helpful pieces of productivity advice I’ve ever received was the suggestion to create a To Don’t list. This would be a list of all of the tasks and daily rituals that I should stop doing. It’s a simple message that moves one toward a simpler life.

I feel like I live in a world where I can probably handle “just one more thing.” Perhaps it’s an addiction to busyness or a desire to fill every moment with some type of activity. When someone brings me a new idea or an activity that I can get excited about, I tend to want to try and accomplish it. Yet all of this results in a level of busyness that doesn’t always lead to effectiveness or the accomplishment of what’s really important.

The second perspective of evaluation, which I call revoke, has a lot to do with cutting out the ineffective parts of an experience. Now that you’ve walked through this experience, lived with it for awhile, and have a chance to reflect and review it, you need to decide what’s not worth repeating.

Five Perspectives To Evaluate Your Experiences: #1-Redo

I am always a bit amazed at some of the very wise things that Abraham Lincoln said. One of his quotes that you can spend an afternoon thinking and reflecting on deals with the importance of evaluation, in this case, self-evaluation:

“I don’t know who my grandfather was; I’m much more concerned to know what his grandson will be.” -Abraham Lincoln

I probably beat this drum way too much, but I try to instill in our student leaders the value of a “completed event.” It basically comes down to three things…

An event or activity is not over until…
a) Everything is cleaned up and put away.
b) Everyone who helped make it happen is thanked.
c) You have evaluated your experience.

The first two are self-explanatory. It’s the third one that I have to stop and explain.

Download: Experience Evaluation Form

Following up from my last post on Evaluation Exercises, I have completed the Experience Evaluation Form.

This is a full-color, downloadable PDF document. The first page contains the overview of each of the five evaluation perspectives: redo, revoke, reward, revise, and recruit.

This tool is especially helpful for evaluating an event or activity that required the help of others. For example, I will offer this tool to our student leaders. Their evaluations of the activities they lead this year will be helpful for the students who lead the same or similar events next year. Our hope is that through the evaluation process, we’ll make improvements and not make similar mistakes.

The form is available with my compliments and will also be archived on my Resource page.

I welcome your feedback or comments about the form.

Evaluation Exercises

There’s a lot of snow on the ground today. I’ve included a pic I took with my iPhone using the Hipstamatic app. While this post isn’t about that app…I highly recommend it!

The snow shows us that we have clearly made the transition from Fall to Winter. Sometimes the change from one season to another isn’t as pronounced. The next season just creeps up on us.

I’ve identified six seasons within the student leader year. At this point in the semester, we’re moving from the fluctuation season into the evaluation season. In my attempt to stay a step ahead of each season, I’ve begun to look again at developing tools to help our students get the most out of their evaluation efforts.

The new tool will focus around five keys to reviewing and reflecting on an experience once it is over: redo, revoke, reward, revise, and recruit.

· redo

What went right? List out the successful elements of your experience. You want to do these things again. These activities deserve repeating. Consider the elements that were at the heart of making this experience worthwhile. Think about the parts of your experience that could easily (or should easily) become a tradition.

This is the part of the evaluation where you focus on what worked. You want to make sure and do this again.

· revoke

Not everything will go smoothly or happen just as you plan it. Sometimes we don’t know until we try. But now that you’ve tried it, you know there are things that you need to toss.

What are those elements from your experience that failed? What should you get rid of? What steps were ineffective and need to be cut out? Is there a traditional part of this experience that has run its course and no longer works…but no one has officially killed it yet? Your evaluation of what to revoke is crucial to creating successful events in the future. The goal of successful evaluation is to do more of what works and less of what doesn’t.

· reward

An event is not over until everyone is thanked. Expressing thanks is a reward to those who helped you pull off a successful event or activity. You may also want to express a reward by celebrating with those who took part in the success of your experience.

Reward is a crucial part of follow-up. Often, people only hear about the negative or only receive feedback when they’ve failed. When you reward others (or yourself) for work well done, you create momentum toward the success of your next event. Rewards come in many forms. It may be words of appreciation, small mementos of the experience, or tangible gifts. Think about what and who needs to be rewarded from each experience.

· revise

Sometimes an element of your experience doesn’t need to be thrown out, only tweaked. Your experience has taught you that you were on the right track, you just need to change your strategy or approach it a bit differently. It’s an important distinction between revise and revoke. You may simply need a little more time or add one more person to the team or spend your money a little differently. Rather than begin all over again, revising let’s you use your experience to improve.

You’ll notice that professionals in any environment aren’t quick to throw out the basics when they make a mistake, but rather will simply revise their approach and make small changes in order to be more effective in the future.

· recruit

This part of the evaluation is focused on people. Consider all of the people involved: participants, spectators, workers, vendors, volunteers, etc. Think about the different strengths and weaknesses that were represented. Was someone missing that would be more helpful in the future? Was there someone that shouldn’t be a part of this experience in the future? Who were the people that were most helpful in the process – you would ask for their help again next time?

We never really know how people will do in various circumstances until we actually see them in action. Now that you’ve had firsthand experience with these different groups of people, what are your recommendations and criticisms?

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Peter Drucker states, “The most serious mistakes are not being made as a result of wrong answers. The truly dangerous thing is asking the wrong question.” My hope is that each of these areas will provide a good context to ask the right questions about what works and what doesn’t.