How engaged are you?

On a scale of 1-5 (5 being high), how engaged are you?

Right now, how engaged are you? I’m asking because crises (like coronavirus) have a way of moving me toward being disengaged—toward feeling overwhelmed, feeling I can’t make a difference, feeling like maybe it’s better to sit back and wait until things settle down. How are you feeling right now?

What’s 1 thing that helps you get engaged?

I’ve been thinking about things that get me engaged, things like:

I’ve also been thinking about how to help others get engaged, recognizing the importance of motive, of helping others because I want to love my neighbor, because it’s the right thing to do, because helping them engage will help them move forward during this crisis. I know how much I appreciate when those around me really want to help me, and I know how much I don’t like it when someone wants to “help” me because of what’s in it for them. (In other words, they really want to help themselves, not me.)

How can you help someone get engaged?

One key way to help others get engaged during a crisis is providing quick wins. Here are 5 things you can do (in less than 1 hour) to help others get a quick win:

What about you? What helps you engage? What role does motive play in getting others engaged? How can you help others get engaged?

What are you learning?

Here’s what I’m learning:

  • CAPA: Virtual Teams: “…healthy organizations beat smart ones every time…. Healthy organizations win.”
  • Don’t Listen to Me When You Shouldn’t: “Leadership is intentionally moving yourself and others toward a goal. Leadership is raising the standards while building up and developing people. Leadership is about creating the next generation of leaders who can, in turn, replicate themselves.”
  • Samuel Johnson: “People need to be reminded more often than they need to be instructed.”

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of 10 quotations that contain the word engage, engaged, and/or engagement:

What are you thinking about?

What do you enjoy thinking about?

Quotations—that’s what I’m thinking about. I like thinking about quotations—they capture key ideas, they are user-friendly in that they are not too long, and when I think about quotations, I get better results. Here are 5 quotations I’m thinking about:

  1. “You’re going to replicate yourself in your organization.” (4 Reasons to Model Good Character in the Workplace). I find this both a bit scary and rather true. As a leader, I set the tone and I determine the culture. Tone and culture flow from my character (who I am) and from my competence (what I do)
  2. “Meetings should be the best things you guys do” (Emerge Stronger Conference). This makes sense to me in terms of schools—meaning, (1) classroom instruction should be the best thing schools do, (2) for leaders, meetings are the equivalent of classroom instruction, so (3) meetings should be done very well.
  3. “When you’re not sure, take action because as you act, you learn from that action and you actually improve” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 48. Plant Your Friggin Tree). How true. Reminds me to Ready-Fire-Aim (instead of Ready-Aim-Fire).
  4. “…when you’re starting something new…you have to end the old stuff right away—because otherwise you’re going to be tempted to go back” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 49. Now Burn Your Ships). So true. Or to put in another way, when starting something new, what do I need to stop doing to make room for doing the new thing?
  5. “Every departmental silo in any company can ultimately be traced back to the leaders of those departments, who have failed to understand the interdependencies that must exist among the executive team, or who have failed to make those interdependencies clear to the people deeper in their own departments” (Silos, Politics and Turf Wars, location 1907). Makes sense to me—how does this seem to you?
How do you feel about self-assessments?

I find that thinking is good and that application is better. So, I’ve turned the quotations into a self-assessment. Try it! Use the following scale:
Strongly Agree • Agree • Disagree • Strongly Disagree

  1. As a leader, I intentionally replicate myself (character and competence) in my organization.
  2. Meetings are one of the best things I do.
  3. I use Ready-Fire-Aim (instead of Ready-Aim-Fire).
  4. When starting something new, I stop doing the old stuff right away.
  5. I cultivate interdependence.

Perhaps as you can tell, I like self-assessment. Taking self-assessments and using the results has helped me grow. Below are 5 self-assessments I’ve found helpful—try 1!

What about you? What are you thinking about? How can you apply what you’re thinking about? How helpful are self-assessments?

What are you learning?

Here’s what I’m learning:

Michael

P.S. Bonus! Here’s a list of 10 quotations that include the word think or thinking:

  1. “As a general rule, we think you want to default to transparency” (Lead to Win: How to Communicate Sensitive Information).
  2. “We think that more than two-thirds of the time leaders avoid uncomfortable conversations at work” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 37. Lean in to Discomfort).
  3. “Most of us think we are better at more things than we really are” (Unstoppable Teams: The Four Essential Actions of High-Performance Leadership, loc 506)
  4. “Many leaders think that, as they gain power and responsibility, their teams should serve them more, but positive leaders know that their job is to serve their teams. When you serve the team, you help them grow and they help you grow” (The Power of Positive Leadership: How and Why Positive Leaders Transform Teams and Organizations and Change the World , loc 1610).
  5. “…you might discover that you aren’t treating people as well as you think. You may be doing more damage than you know” (Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box, p.9).
  6. “If you think what you or your colleagues are achieving isn’t enough, address that concern rather than simply suggesting more work” (Eat Sleep Work Repeat: 30 Hacks for Bringing Joy to Your Job, loc 863).
  7. “Secure leaders who value relationships think of others first” (The Leader’s Greatest Return, loc 2266)
  8. “What kind of coaching or mentoring do you need to do to help the leaders think better, think bigger, think more creatively, and think more about people?” (The Leader’s Greatest Return Workbook, loc 2972)
  9. “The key is to remain open to the possibility that speakers don’t actually think what you think they think” (Why Are We Yelling?: The Art of Productive Disagreement, loc 2759).
  10. “Where is scarcity in your thinking impeding the best results? How difficult is it for you to share credit, praise, recognition, or power?” (Management Mess to Leadership Success, loc 271)

How do you feel about growing right now?

How do you feel about learning something new?

Now—right now is a good time to grow! So, now is a good time to plan for your personal and/or professional growth. Consider trying 1 or more of these 8 growth experiments:

Experiment #1: Go for daily walks. Let your mind wander, and when you get back, jot down what came to mind. (I get a lot of ideas when I walk.)

Experiment #2: Get a membership to an appropriate professional organization.

Experiment #3: Read a book, for example, The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, The Speed of Trust, and/or Multipliers.

Experiment #4: Subscribe to a newsletter.

What experiments can you try to help yourself grow?

Experiment #5: Consider this question: “How might we (with the very best of intentions) be actually having a diminishing impact on the people around us?”

Experiment #6: Complete an assessment (see below), reflect on the results, and take action:

Experiment #7: Reflect on these questions: What are 5-7 core responsibilities of your job? And what are the key performance indicators that let you know how you are doing in your job?

How might writing a weekly blog help you?

Experiment #8: Start blogging weekly on what you are learning. My wife and I have found this has really helped us grow.

What about you? How do you feel about growing right now? What growth experiments can you try?

What are you learning?

Here’s what I’m learning:

  • Death by Meeting (viii): “By taking a contrarian, nontraditional view of meetings, and following a few specific guidelines…we can transform what is now painful and tedious into something productive, compelling, and even energizing.”
  • Emerge Stronger Conference: “…it’s the job of a manager to connect every person that works for them to their reason for working and why it matters…. Our job as leaders and managers is to constantly remind people of why what you do matters.”
  • Silos, Politics and Turf Wars (location 125): “Silos—and the turf wars they enable—devastate organizations. They waste resources, kill productivity, and jeopardize the achievement of goals.”

Michael

P.S. Bonus—here are 10 quotations that contain the word grow or growth:

  1. “Create a team that helps you work on areas where you need help, and allow yourself to grow” (Leading with Grace: Leaning into the Soft Skills of Leadership, loc 321).
  2. “If you really want to make your mark, you’ll have to grow more to give more, and that won’t feel easy or natural” (High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Became That Way. p. 41).
  3. “The great thing about commitment is that when you commit your life to helping others grow, you grow” (The Power of Positive Leadership, loc 1700).
  4. “Just as you have to continually water a plant so that it can grow and thrive, you, as a leader, will sustain the growth and vitality of your organization by repeating the vision over and over again” (The Vision Driven Leader: 10 Questions to Focus Your Efforts, Energize Your Team, and Scale Your Business, loc 1934).
  5. “What is essential to grow an organization? A good leader” (The Leader’s Greatest Return, loc 3286).
  6. “Your ability to get things done, build relationships, make changes, and help other people grow depends on the quality of your conversations” (Keith Webb).
  7. “Grow a leader—grow the organization. A company cannot grow throughout until its leaders grow within” (The Leader’s Greatest Return, loc 369).
  8. “Discomfort is key to our growth, and desirable” (Why Are We Yelling?: The Art of Productive Disagreement, loc 1264).
  9. “…shift from a fixed mindset (where your role was to show up as the smartest person in the room) to a growth mindset (where your role was to listen, to learn, and to bring out the best in people)” (5 Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change).
  10. “If you really want to make your mark, you’ll have to grow more to give more, and that won’t feel easy or natural” (High Performance Habits: How Extraordinary People Became That Way, p. 41).

How powerful is consistently doing simple things?

How challenging and complicated does your life feel right now?

My life is full of challenges—coronavirus (need I say more?), health concerns (I’m getting older), staying connected to family in the US while living in Japan, finding effective ways to help leaders and organizations to grow, and more! How about you? What challenges are you currently facing? 

The challenges in my life seem to make my life complicated. And when life gets complicated, I go for a walk—when I get back, life seems less complicated, more simple. Why? Because while I’m on my walk, I remember that life is about doing simple things, and doing those simple things consistently, for example:

  • Loving God and loving my neighbor.
  • Honoring my parents and taking a Sabbath.
  • Listening to understand (instead of to respond).
  • Eating healthy food, getting some exercise, and getting enough sleep—every day (advice from my dad).

Or to put it another way, “most of life comes down to simple disciplines…life isn’t all that complicated, but it’s hard…. It’s more about the work than it is about the insight” (Emerge Stronger Conference).

And the principle of doing simple things consistently also holds true in my role as a leader. Though I find being a leader to be a challenge, I must admit that being a leader actually “is not…complicated” (The 5 Temptations of a CEO, vii). Why? Because when it comes to leadership, “Success is not a matter of mastering subtle, sophisticated theory, but rather of embracing common sense [simple things] with uncommon levels of discipline and persistence” (The 5 Dysfunctions of a Team, p. 220).

What simple things do you strive to consistently do?

What simple things should leaders consistently do? Here are 3 thoughts from Patrick Lencioni:

  1. “…build trust on your team…get a rallying cry, and have better meetings” (Emerge Stronger Conference).
  2. Practice the 4 disciplines: “Build a cohesive leadership team. Create clarity. Overcommunicate clarity. Reinforce the clarity” (The Advantage).
  3. Prioritize being a healthy organization over being a smart organization. Why? “First, healthy organizations have a way of making themselves smarter…. Second, healthy companies are far less susceptible to ordinary problems than unhealthy ones…. Finally—and this point is critical—no one but the head of an organization can make it healthy…. And so, as odd as it may seem, it is actually more important for leaders to focus on making their organizations healthy than on making them smart” (The 4 Obsessions of an Extraordinary CEO, xiv-xv). 

How about you? What are simple things you think leaders should consistently do?

What kind of person do you want to be?

As a leader, I not only want to do simple things consistently, I also (and more importantly) want to be a person that does simple things consistently. I’ve found this to be challenging, and things that help me meet the challenge include doing daily reflection (like when I do my devotions, blog, go for my daily constitutional), prioritizing developing leaders (over getting the ostensible task done), reviewing my vision, and talking with my coach about the progress I’ve made on my vision and goals on a weekly basis.

What about you? How powerful is consistently doing simple things? What simple things should you consistently do? What helps you be a person who does simple things consistently?

What are you learning?

Here’s what I’m learning:

  • Are Your Strengths Hurting Your Team?: “How might we with the very best of intentions be actually having a diminishing impact on the people around us?”
  • Death by Meeting (p. 211) “…bad meetings at the executive level usually indicated a huge gap between performance and potential.”
  • How to Make Fewer, Faster, & Better Decisions: “When leaders invest precious energy in low-impact decisions, everyone pays a price. Hoarding decisions undervalues employees. It also keeps you from making bigger decisions that really matter. You can’t escape decision-making, but you can separate the high-leverage decisions from the rest.”

Michael

Bonus—I collect quotations from books, articles, podcasts, webinars, and so forth. Here’s a list of 10 quotations that contain the word simple:

  1. “No amount of intellectual prowess or personal charisma can make up for an inability to identify a few simple things and stick to them over time” (The 4 Obsessions of an Extraordinary CEO, p.180).
  2. “Remember, it’s by the small and simple things that great things come” (Dangerous Love: Transforming Fear and Conflict at Home, at Work, and in the World, location 2836). 
  3. “…the solutions to some of the big problems are simple, but simple doesn’t always mean easy” (On Leadership: See The Potential All Around You: Janice Bryant Howroyd).
  4. “…people underestimate the power of just simple clarity…” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 42. Why Your CEO Doesn’t Get It).
  5. “…you can manage important information using cascading communication. Just follow these simple steps: (1) decide what to communicate, (2) get the message right, (3) determine who needs to know and in what order, and (4) clarify as needed” (Lead to Win: How to Communicate Sensitive Information).
  6. “If upstream thinking is so simple—and so effective in eliminating recurring problems—why is it so rare?” (Upstream: The Quest to Solve Problems Before They Happen, location 736)
  7. “Simple can be harder than complex: You have to work hard to get your thinking clean to make it simple. But it’s worth it in the end because once you get there, you can move mountains. —Steve Jobs” (Influence in Action: How to Build Your Conversational Capacity, Do Meaningful Work, and Make a Powerful Difference, p. 147)
  8. “So, each and every week these leaders have a brief check-in with each team member, during which they ask two simple questions: What are your priorities this week? How can I help?” (Nine Lies About Work, location 697)
  9. “As a leader, your reputation is, in essence, the sum of your collective decisions. Basically, you’re paid to decide—it’s that simple” (Management Mess to Leadership Success, location 2353).
  10. “Validation is…a very simple, astoundingly fast way to make progress in a conversation: It eases tension, builds trust, and gets you and the other person to a solution more quickly” (The Magic of Validation).

What do you think and feel about conflict?

How do you feel about conflict?

Conflict—what words come to mind when you hear the word conflict? Argument? Clash? Friction, strife, struggle? Or what about feelings? What feelings do you experience when you think of conflict? Fear? Anxiety? Dread, distress, dismay?

I don’t think or feel positively about conflict, but I’m questioning my thoughts and feelings. Why? 

  1. Because of this perspective on conflict: “[Conflict] can transform contention into collaboration. It can balance justice and mercy. It can unlock creativity…. It can strengthen our personal and professional relationships. It can solve deep-rooted problems that need to be solved within communities or organizations. And actually conflict can create peace” (Summiting Insurmountable Conflict). 
  2. Because of this diagnosis about the cause of conflict: “Nearly all, if not all, conflict amongst people comes from mismatched or unfulfilled expectations” (Great Leaders Can’t Get Great Results Without Reality: Scott Miller).
  3. Because of this question: “Am I holding myself to the same standards I’m expecting from them?” (The Anatomy of Peace)
  4. Because of this definition of conflict: Conflict is “our inability to collaboratively solve problems with other people” (Dangerous Love: Transforming Fear and Conflict at Home, at Work, and in the World, location 101).
  5. Because of this reframing of conflict: “With trust, conflict is the pursuit of the best idea…. Conflict without trust is politics” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 3. The Upside of Conflict).
  6. Because of this reframing of problems (I tend to see conflict as a problem): “…problems are really an opportunity in disguise” (Lead to Win: How to Adjust to the New Normal).
  7. And because of the practice of mining for conflict: “Mining for conflict is just going into a meeting and noticing that 2 people don’t quite agree on something and just saying, ‘Hey, you guys, I don’t think you agree on this, do you?’” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 3. The Upside of Conflict).
How do you define “conflict”?

Now I’m asking myself, “What if conflict is actually is an opportunity to collaboratively align around clarified expectations and best ideas?” How about you? What difference would it make if you saw conflict as an opportunity to collaboratively align around clarified expectations and best ideas?

What’s your conflict management style?

What happens when conflict is avoided or not addressed effectively? Bad things. People share less about what they’re thinking and feeling—consequently, relationships grow shallower and meetings get less effective. If “people don’t have conflict around issues…it actually ferments over time into conflict around people. They actually begin to dislike each other because they’re not telling each other the truth” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 3. The Upside of Conflict). And the focus can shift from pursuing the best idea for the team to self-preservation and reputation management.

But what happens when conflict is effectively addressed? Good things! Both relationships and meetings become healthier and more engaging—because people share what they are thinking and feeling. Important things (which includes hard things and deep concerns) get addressed. Expectations get clarified, and best ideas get pursued.

What helps you do conflict effectively?

Here are some things I’ve learned that have helped me and teams I’ve worked with do conflict even better:

  1. Be humble (Ephesisan 4:2) and sober minded (Romans 12:3). Strive for peace with others (Romans 12:18).
  2. Apologize for the log in your eye before you address the speck in the other person’s eye (Matthew 7:5).
  3. Care for those you are in conflict with. They are your neighbors—love them (Matthew 22:39)
  4. Forgive (Ephesians 4:32).
  5. Build trust by demonstrating vulnerability, by making it safe for others to share, and by listening to understand (instead of listening to respond). Try reading The Speed of Trust.
  6. Create clarity around expectations and around team mission, vision, values, and goals.
  7. Mine for conflict. Encourage others to share. Give the team real time permission to conflict.
  8. Have your team take a personality test, use the results to determine team members’ conflict management styles, and then discuss the results.
  9. Use candor and curiosity. Speak the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).

What about you? How do you feel about conflict? What happens when you or your team do conflict well (and when you don’t)? How can you help yourself and your team do conflict even better?

What are you learning?

Here’s what I’m learning:

  • 3 Assumptions That Keep Leaders from Building Trust: “I’ve observed three common assumptions leaders make that prevent them from building trust in a consistent and proactive way. They assume trust ‘just happens[‘]…. They assume others view trust the same way they do…. They assume trust is only a ‘warm and fuzzy’ concept.”
  • 3 Elements of Effective Decision-Making: “When the next decision comes down the pipe, follow this framework. Ask yourself, ‘Do I have the right data? Have I sought the advice of trusted experts? What does my gut say?’”
  • Emerge Stronger Conference: “Speed of the leader, speed of the team.”

Michael

How cooperative is your team?

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In terms of cooperation, how would you describe your team?

Quick—which statement best describes your team’s style of cooperation?

  1. Our 4 team members are entered in the 100 meter dash. Each person focuses on crossing the finish line as fast as possible.
  2. Our 4-member team is a 4 x 100 meter relay team. Each person focuses on finishing his/her section of the race as fast as possible.
  3. Our 4-member team is a 4 x 100 meter relay team. Each person focuses on (A) finishing his/her section of the race as fast as possible and on (B) getting the next runner off to a good start by effectively passing the baton. (Check out the video below to see what happens when batons are not passed effectively.)

I’m asking about your team’s style of cooperation because I just finished watching How Too Many Rules at Work Keep You from Getting Things Done, a fascinating TED Talk in which the speaker emphasizes the power of cooperation, noting that with “cooperation, the whole is worth more than the sum of its parts.…With cooperation, we can do more with less.” He goes on to share that the current emphasis on clarity, accountability, and measurement don’t necessarily result in cooperation and can result in teams “pay[ing] more attention on knowing who to blame in case we fail than on creating the conditions to succeed.”

So, what style of cooperation do you want your team to have? To be honest, I want to be on the team that is like the 4 X 100 meter team where each person focuses on (A) finishing his/her section of the race as fast as possible and (B) getting the next runner off to a good start by effectively passing the baton. Or to put in another way, I want to be on a team where teammates really cooperate, in part by finding ways to work that not only get the job done but also make it easier for others to succeed.

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How cooperative do you want your team to be?

What best practices have you found that actually increase team cooperation? Best practices I’ve found include:

  1. Using an outward mindset, a mindset that sees others as people, a mindset that focuses on making it easier for others to succeed.
  2. Using LIFE skills: Listen to understand • Inquire to provoke reflection • Focus on others • Encourage.
  3. Using a playbook that gets everyone aligned around 6 key questions.
  4. Focusing on achieving a common goal.
  5. Using a common vocabulary. For example, it’s vital that team members agree on what the word of their mission and vision statements mean. 
  6. Using a software platform that encourages collaboration, for example, G Suite.
  7. Doing professional development together on enhancing team dynamics. I’ve found Patrick Lencioni’s organizational health model to be quite helpful.
  8. Getting a team coach to help the team become even more cooperative.

How can your team learn more about cooperation? 

What about you? How cooperative is your team? What best practices have you found that actually increase cooperation? How can you help your team learn more about cooperation?

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What are you learning?

Here’s what I’m learning:

  • Good Feedback Is a Two-Way Conversation: “Rather than offer directives, managers ask probing questions that help them better understand the picture of work and entrust their employees with opportunities to shape the way forward.”
  • What Great Leadership Looks Like: How to Set the Right Example with a Growing Team: “So, here are four ways leaders can ensure they are setting the right example and modeling great leadership. 1. Start with self-leadership…2. Be clear about expectations…3. Ask more questions, give fewer answers…4. Recognize and reward…”
  • Why Matters: A Leader’s Motivation Can Drastically Change How They Show Up: “Reward-centered leaders believe that their positions are due to them for their years of hard work and that the privilege of their position means that they can avoid the mundane, unpleasant and uncomfortable…. Reward-centered leaders often shirk parts of their job like developing their teams, actively managing their direct reports, leading engaging meetings, having tough conversations and communicating enough with employees.”

—Michael
P.S. Need a laugh? Check out the following video on cooperation!

 

How does trust (and distrust) affect your team?

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How does trust or lack of trust impact your team?

You know that to move forward, you need to further build a cohesive leadership team. You’re wondering about trust and the difference it makes. And you’re wondering if further building trust might help your team.

If so, try taking this 5-item survey, choosing either (A) or (B): I want to be on a leadership team where members…

  • (A) Don’t really know each other • (B) Know each other.
  • (A) Hesitate to give honest feedback. • (B) Give honest feedback.
  • (A) Hide weaknesses and mistakes. • (B) Admit weaknesses and apologize for mistakes.
  • (A) Make negative assumptions about others. • (B) Make positive assumptions about others.
  • (A) Don’t ask for help. • (B) Ask for help.

If you’re like me, you chose (B) for each response. I mean, who wants to be on a team where others don’t know you, don’t give feedback, and think the worst of you? Not me! And while I can’t think of teams where all the (A) responses actually describe them, I can think of teams that would benefit from building trust. How about your team?

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How do you define “trust”?

What do I mean by trust? Here are 3 perspectives I’ve found quite helpful:

How about you? What do you mean by trust? Which of the above 3 perspectives do you find helpful?

When helping teams build trust, I’ve found it helpful to model trust-building behaviors, for example:

  • Being genuinely curious about others’ thoughts and feelings.
  • Listening to understand, not to respond. 
  • Inquiring to provoke reflection, instead of giving advice.
  • Focusing on others, instead of myself.
  • Encouraging, instead of critiquing.
  • Sharing my weaknesses and mistakes.

When helping teams build trust, I’ve also found it helpful to do the following for team meetings:

  1. Send out the agenda ahead of time so that everyone knows what the meeting is about. 
  2. In the agenda, use questions (rather than topics) to invite thinking.
  3. Begin the meeting with a time of prayer and then sharing: each team member shares 1 high, 1 low, and 1 priority.
  4. Help team members get to know and further appreciate each other. Recently, I’ve used a personal histories exercise and a discussion of personality types—worked pretty well!
  5. Ask questions and then let the team talk. As facilitator, I strive to talk no more than 20% of the time, so that the team can talk at least 80% of the time.
  6. Model genuine curiosity, candor, and transparency. 
  7. Find ways for each team member (personality type) to shine, and affirm that shining.
  8. At the close of each meeting, document and review the commitment the team has made.

What about you? How does trust (and distrust) affect your team? What do you mean by trust? How can you build trust on teams?

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What are you learning?

Here’s what I’m learning:

  • 5 Ways to Lead in an Era of Constant Change: “…what can we do to transform the way we transform organizations so that rather than being exhausting, it’s actually empowering and energizing? To do that, we need to focus on…putting people first…enable people with the capabilities and skills that they need to succeed during the transformation and beyond…instill a culture of continuous learning…shift from a fixed mindset (where your role was to show up as the smartest person in the room) to a growth mindset (where your role was to listen, to learn, and to bring out the best in people).”
  • Confessions of a Recovering Micromanager: “There is only one solution to micromanagement, and that’s to trust.”
  • How Great Leaders Inspire Action: “…people don’t buy what you do; people buy why you do it.”

—Michael

What helps you work well with others? 

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What’s one thing that helps you collaborate effectively?

It’s 1998—I’m in Shanghai with my dad for a conference for educators. We’re taking an evening walk, and he’s noting that one thing that helps him work well with others is having the same worldview, the same purpose, the same foundation. I found myself nodding, and since then I’ve shared that story with colleagues, who also nodded.

I’ve been thinking about what helps me work well with others—my wife, my school colleagues, my workshop participants, my coaching clients. Things that came to mind include:

Another thing that helps me work well with others is increasing my understanding of them, and the “more we understand others, the more we’re going to be gracious to them…” (At the Table with Patrick Lencioni: 8. The Power of Personality Profiles)

  • I’ve found it helpful use a personal histories exercise in which each person shares a formative experience. 
  • I’ve also found it helpful to use the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator—it allows me and others to share preferences and growth areas. For example, as an INTJ, I gain energy in solitude, I usually start with strategy and diplomacy (instead of tactics and logistics), and I’m working to notice the emotions of others. Sharing my growth areas (like noticing emotions) gives others permission to help me do this and call me on it when I’m not.

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What’s on the hearts of those around you?

Lately, the thing that is helping me the most is this question: How can I work in such a way that I make life easier for others? This question has resulted in me doing more household jobs, going the extra mile to develop user-friendly documents, changing meeting agendas, asking others how I can be helpful, and more! (To learn more about working to make life easier for others, check out this free course from the Arbinger Institute.)

What about you?  What helps you work well with others? How can you increase your understanding of others? How can you work in such a way that you make life easier for others?

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What are you learning?

Here’s what I’ve been learning:

  • Christian Leadership: I Don’t Think That Word Means What You Think It Means”: “Christian leadership is as transformational to us as it is to those we are called to lead. We can’t steamroll people at any cost. There’s no cutting corners or cheating when we are doing things God’s way. So getting messy, making mistakes, and needing the support of others is par for the course. We have to work on ourselves as much as we work on other people. Releasing ourselves from old expectations, habits, and false-beliefs is exponentially more difficult than getting others to believe in us. It takes time.”
  • The Difference Trust Makes: “Members of teams with an absence of trust…. Hesitate to ask for help or provide constructive feedback…. Jump to conclusions about the intentions and aptitudes of others without attempting to clarify them.”
  • On Leadership: Schedule the Big Rocks, Don’t Sort Gravel: Kory Kogon: “Act on the important; don’t react to the urgent…. Rule your technology; don’t let it rule you…. Schedule the big rocks; don’t sort gravel.”

—Michael

 

What role do questions play in your life?

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What’s your favorite punctuation mark? For me, it’s the question mark.

What encourages clear thinking, promotes learning, prods personal and professional growth, inspires action, and helps you to take responsibility, assess your behavior, and gain insight? My answer: a good question. Just yesterday, here’s how 2 questions helped me:

  • As I prepared for a consulting session, I asked myself, “How can I work in such a way that I make life easier for others?” The result? I developed a framework I could share with my client.
  • At the end of what had been a good day, I was oddly unconsciously cranky—until my wife asked me, “Did something happen today?” I immediately (and sheepishly) adjusted my behavior.

What about you? What role do questions play in your life?

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What questions are you considering?

Most mornings, I invest time in reading, listening to podcasts, and watching videos. As I do so, I collect questions, taking time consider them and to possibly use them as I work with others, for example:

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What helps you consider questions? For me, it’s coffee!

Considering questions can be challenging—so to increase the likelihood that I’ll rise to the challenge, I use 5 things: 

  1. Coffee—need I say more?
  2. Quiet—I have trouble thinking when others are talking or when music is playing. Silence works well for me.
  3. Time—I need time to reflect, and my best time of day is in the morning.
  4. Walking—I think better on my feet, literally. Going for a walk through the rice fields helps me process my thoughts.
  5. Blogging—I use my blog posts to explore questions. Maybe that’s why my blog titles are all questions, for example, What happens when you have clarity? And when you don’t?, How important is mindset?, and What’s the impact of your blind spots?

What about you? What role do questions play in your life? What questions are you considering? What helps you consider questions?

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What are you learning?

Here’s what I’m learning:

—Michael

 

How can you make life easier for others?

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What challenges are you facing?

Need a challenge? Redefine your work according to the following: “That’s your work…to find ways to see others as people and to constantly adjust your work to make life easier for others” (The Change Needed To Really Do My Job). Hmmm—like me, you might think that your job has specific responsibilities that you need to carry out and that you weren’t hired to make things easier for others.

But then I notice that the reference is to work, not to job. Meaning, my overall activity (not just my paid employment) is to “to make life easier for others.” My primary role is to be helpful—and this reminds me of loving my neighbor (Mark 12:31).

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How can do your job in such a way that you make life easier for others?

I’ve been thinking about how I can make life easier for others. I know what doesn’t work is when I try to help without finding out first what would actually help. What does seem to work is the SAM process: 

  • See others—find out what would help others.
  • Adjust efforts—do something to be even more helpful.
  • Measure impact—talk to the person to see how helpful my adjustment was.

Yes, going to ask someone how I could be of help felt a little odd. But I did it out of a real desire to help—and I got a suggestion which I am implementing this week (which is adjust a daily meeting agenda to include both professional development and projects)!

To learn more about the SAM process, watch 3 minutes of How Outward Mindset Improves Results and Makes Things Easier (15:13 – 18:27):

So, what’s the real challenge here for me? It’s not using the SAM process. It’s not overcoming the odd feeling I have about asking others how I could be of help. The real challenge here for me is to adjust my mindset—to see my job as a subset of my work and to see my work as the practical outworking of loving my neighbor, meaning, “to make life easier for others.”

What about you? How can you make life easier for others? “What’s the real challenge here for you?” (The Coaching Habit: Say Less, Ask More & Change the Way You Lead Forever, p. 85)

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What are you learning?

Here’s what I’m learning:

—Michael