When we institute change, any change, there is a ripple effect. We have impact on those absorbing the change. Making and executing a decision can be quite satisfying, but impact is a whole other thing. No matter how necessary, innovative or even brilliant we think the change is, the outcome and impact may be less than we had hoped. Part of the change must take into consideration those most affected by it…Input in anticipation of change is key to positive impact.
We don’t want to use a new invention until we understand it. That doesn’t mean we need to understand how it functions. However, we need to grasp what it can do and what it can give us.– Rachel Botsman
What happens when a new business process is introduced as a done deal? What happens when your job is to translate it to your team in such a way that there is buy-in, ownership and adoption? Hopefully, you are thrilled with the possibilities it presents. But…what if you’re not. What if you are moved t to wonder how it will alter your work team’s relationships and responsibilities…?
The “what if” questions lead middle managers or team leaders to “if only” assessments. If only our team could have spoken into this…a much better outcome and more positive impact could follow… without the disruption and chaos you know will come… unnecessarily.
We must be careful, as decision-makers to avoid the default of being task and development oriented to the point that we lose sight of the people impacted. It’s not just “get ‘er done”; it’s also “get ’em won”.
Leadership has its rewards in delivering on bottom line and fulfilling the expectations of shareholders. Where we struggle sometimes is moving too quickly in identifying a problem and developing a solution. Occasionally even publishing our solution cold to our department heads or work teams. They do not always meet our hard work and great solutions with enthusiasm…not because our teammates are ungrateful or clueless. No, in fact, they may have had their finger on the very pulse of those same problems, working out solutions together but not to the point of finished product. We, as leaders, can swoop in like the cavalry, communicating that we alone can “fix the problem”. No need for input here, right? Wrong…sadly wrong.
Before putting in motion a sweeping new initiative, we can hope for maximum impact. Maximum positive impact.
How? If we are willing to do the extra work of gleaning from teams, we can build trust and an openness to adopt change. It’s a win-win.
[Caprino goes into much more depth in her article. Don’t miss it.]
Just a word on disruption. It, of course, can be a good thing. The thing for us all to remember about disruption, especially in the workplace, is that it is never recreational, especially to those whose positions or purposes are being disrupted. As Rachel Botsman demonstrates in the image below…when change is initiated, we may see one of at least three reactions. When we build trust and demonstrate valuing of those most affected by the change, positive impact can be that sought-after outcome of our endeavors.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons
It’s worth the work – and we are better leaders for doing it.
[We’re not talking about the 2013 zombie apocalypse romantic comedy Warm Bodies, although I do like this graphic. Read on.]
Yesterday, I participated in a large community event. There must have been 50 or more volunteers making it happen over the course of the day. My volunteering was just across two hours. It was an event that included a large gathering, food for all, and lawn games for all ages afterwards. We observed and experienced the beauty of a “living organism” – a well-planned, well-executed event. Except for three paid staff, all the responsibilities were carried on the capable shoulders of volunteers.
An isolated event is one thing but it can speak to the core values of an organization’s overall care of its people. Is it just about filling a slot or making the organization look good, or is it moving everyone toward a mutually shared vision? Is it just the securing of warm bodies to feed the machine? Or is it a called, capable, and committed community of folks working together for a greater good? [See Matt Orth’s piece below].
How volunteers (and employees) are recruited and retained matters.
What made yesterday’s one-time event so successful and well-executed? This is what I observed:
A mix of event-only volunteers and longer-term volunteer leaders on point for the various activities. This made for a win-win all around. Plenty of willing helpers and lead people to guide toward success.
Clear organization and preparation allowing the volunteers to easily do what they signed on to do.
High enthusiasm – shared ownership and vision related to the event.
Multiple teams allowing for most of the volunteers to have a fixed service window of time.
Obvious valuing (by staff and leads) of the volunteers’ participation.
Writer, speaker Matt Orth wrote a piece on warm body mentality (already mentioned above) which bears a read. Orth tells a humorous story of how he fell into being a Vacation Bible School director due to the stealth of a volunteer recruiter. He defines warm body mentality(WBM) as the process whereby “a church decides what needs to happen program-wise in their church life and then they just find the Warm Bodies to make it happen”. This could relate to any organization or company. It is task or program orientation vs. person-orientation.
Orth proposes a system of volunteer recruitment that avoids a warm body mentality:
How long the commitment is for and when will they have an opportunity to step down or renew the commitment. Or if/how they can downgrade or upgrade responsibilities.
What kind of accountability they will have, who they are responsible to report to, and what the evaluation process will be.
What the time commitments are, including not just the start/end times of services/events, but what time they will be expected to be there both before and after the service/event.
All the rest of the duties spelled out whatever they may be (teaching, running sound, getting food ready, etc.) including any intangible expectations.
Give them a gracious way to say “NO.” You’re looking for volunteers who want to be there.
He recognizes the importance of having volunteers demonstrating a sense of calling, commitment, and capability. However, all of these are negotiable depending on the person… Training, casting vision, and appropriate resource equipping can move folks who currently don’t see themselves in a volunteer role toward volunteering…and not just as warm bodies.
To recruit and retain the kind of volunteers (or employees) we want depends more on us in recruiting roles…than it does on them. Showing genuine care for the individual makes such a difference in both execution of programming AND the long-term development and engagement of that person.
Give volunteers a voice and they will help you shepherd them…, and, in the end, you will a community of deeply committed people who care about the vision as much as the leaders do.
Yesterday, in the midst of all the buzz of volunteering, one of the leads announced that this was the last event for one couple to serve because they were moving out-of-state. I didn’t know them very well, but what I did know was that they always stepped up to help in whatever capacity they could. Here on their last day with this organization, they chose to spend it serving…again.
If I’d had more time yesterday, I would have loved to know more of how one comes to be like that. Some of us are natural servers, and all these seem to require is opportunity and just a bit of regard or recognition.
The rest of us may need a bit more to be successful beyond a one-time commitment. Sunday’s event for me was illuminating. How do we take what happened Sunday and grow it into something that yields thriving, committed volunteers and sustainable programming over the long-haul?
Feedback’s a good thing, right? We all want to know how we’re doing…how we’re being received?…maybe. Let’s define the term:
“Feedback is a response from the receiver that informs the sender how the communication is being received in general”. – Bizcom_coach
Here’s a scenario: excitement is high at your company with the launch of a new product. The designers and project managers have put long hours and much brain power into getting everything just right. Colleagues and customers alike are riding the wave of enthusiasm at the magnificent capabilities of the product. You’re also caught up in the moment.
In your first test drive of the new product, you find a couple of glitches you didn’t expect. In fact, it’s a little harder to maneuver than you imagined. At first you think, “Well, it’s me. Operator error.” Then you think of how a few adjustments could potentially fix the glitches and smooth out of the bumps of its user unfriendliness.
Beware of the vast wilderness of unsolicited feedback.
It’s not like this product (or program or service) was thrown together without great forethought and brilliant design. If you noted the glitches, it is most probable that others have as well. Others, who are much closer to the product than you are…much closer to its design process than you were.
A wise position to take is: If you are not asked for feedback, your feedback is not wanted. Or, a bit less personal maybe, if you are not in the already established feedback loop, then the presumed right people are already working on it. The it being whatever you’re burning to give feedback on.
Feedback and advice can mean the same thing to the receiver, whether we consider them the same or not. In fact, we may feel it’s irresponsible or indefensible to withhold feedback when it would assuredly help both the company and the customer.
Where we think feedback is warranted, the project manager or design team may have already reached a point in the process where advice is not welcome. Affirmation? Yes…but advice (or feedback), no.
Whatever our position, expertise, or personality, we will, at times, see the need for offering feedback…even when it’s clearly unwanted.
I certainly have had that experience. One has to ask the question: Is my feedback serving my own ego or my company’s outcome? If we truly believe that what we offer to the mix will make a huge difference, then we may risk offering unsolicited feedback.
There was a time…even as recently as last week, when I thought the reward would outweigh the risk. My thinking has changed (especially in seeing that feedback could be construed as a form of negativism and therefore only clouding the issue rather than clarifying it.
I offer 10 steps toward giving unsolicited feedback. Within the 10 steps there are disciplines and delays that help fine-tune both our thinking and our actions. I would appreciate your thoughts on this…your feedback (in the Comments below).
Pretend you are the project manager, the one executing the new program, product line, or service.
Tear into it. Make as exhaustive a list as you can as to both the positive and negatives you observe.
Now…set it aside…for a few minutes, or days, or forever (this is a bit tricky because feedback should be timely…but we’re talking about unsolicited feedback).
Face the reality that your feedback wasn’t requested. Let that settle your itchy finger set to send the email.
If you still can’t rest, thinking your input has merit, then choose wisely what few points of feedback you especially think would add value and warrant the risk. No more than 3.
Don’t do anything…still.
Consider who may already be at the table giving feedback. If you are not one of those people, can you trust that your concerns are already before them?Photo Credit: Commons Wikimedia
Resist the urge to gossip your feedback if you don’t feel free to give it to those appropriate to receive it.
If you can’t rest, (even while determined to trust other decision-makers and keeping your unsolicited feedback to yourself), then choose one point, one concern. Make sure it is not just style vs. substance. Also confirm that it relates to a process not a person.
Give your feedback to the right person, at the right time, and in the right way. Succintly, positively, and friendly. If it seemed that crucial to you to share what was not requested, it is done. Hopefully, the outcomes will be positive. If not, you took a risk. You did not stay silent. It could make a difference down the road. More importantly than the result is the relationship. That matters most.Photo Credit: Ken Whytock, Flickr
Again, remember, I would appreciate your feedback.
I love Mondays! It’s ripe with possibility…and prospects of new beginnings. The tricky part of the start of any week is not settling into your work station and returning to the “same ol’, same ol'” – whatever that might entail. Even when we are excited, or at least hopeful for what’s next, we can default to usual rhythms and routines. They are familiar and comfortable (at least on the surface). Neuroplasticity – the brain’s ability to restructure itself after training or practice – can be both our enemy AND our friend.
If you love your work and you see how you fit integrally on your team, and you love your team, that is fantastic! Celebrate that every day! For you, I would just love if you could take a minute and comment below. What do you see at work in your situation? What do you do yourself to nurture that workplace experience?
[Even if you love your job, would you be willing to consider how you could help other teammates to have your experience and move to the top of their professional game?]
Adam (he makes it feel comfortable to refer to him by his first name) is an organizational psychologist and professor at Wharton Business School. He’s authored excellent books and is now moving into a new role as pod-caster. He has affirmed much of what I believe about workplace culture and its impact on day-to-day function, employee engagement, and outcomes/product.
Author, entrepreneur Damon Brown interviewed Adam Grant and posted recently on the traits of companies which are the most highly functional. His findings weren’t surprising to me, but I’d like to hear what you think.
These companies make a high priority of helping their employees discover both their weaknesses and strengths, together with their coworkers. The goals relate to outcomes, sure, but, as part of that, the professional development of each employee, as well as team cohesion and a “best practice” level of collaboration. How refreshing when both department heads and all stake-holders turn a mirror on themselves for the sake of both the individual and the whole. Having this core value could turn a company on its head…in a good way!Photo Credit: Pixabay
Adam Grant has discovered that many high functioning organizations have flexible hierarchies. You might walk into one of these work meetings and not be able to tell who the “big boss” is. Also, when a decision is made, it is not always top-down. Sure, the decision is given authority from the top, but the process clearly demonstrates and validates the employees closest to a decision (and the impact of the decision) to make that decision. Again, please comment below if you work in such an environment. For me, the whole idea of this is so reasonable and wise. By the way, even if your hierarchy is currently rigid, what would it look like, if you began working toward flexibility? What could be your next steps?Photo Credit: Pixabay
Highly functioning organizations use the word “family” in describing themselves. Not in a smarmy, feel good way, but in actual experience of community and belonging and care. We as colleagues can make this happen within a team, whether it is a top-down experience or not. We communicate and demonstrate, in good faith, that we have each other’s back. We show genuine care for each other and don’t allow ambition or personal preference blind us to the needs of the rest of our team. This actually can eventually have a cross-team impact…if we are patient. If you wonder how, just search on-line for Adam Grant – he has both written and spoken volumes on this.
All three of these traits, or patterns, point to a vision that is highly peopled. It is not just driven from the top. Nor is it owned by one work group over another. A shared vision, in the truest sense of its meaning, gives room for all players…with their varying strengths and weaknesses. There is space for leaders and those who prefer to follow (excellent leaders or even those not-so-much), for the persuaders and those willing to consider the persuasion, for the decision-makers and those who want to speak into the decisions. Your over-all vision might be right but engaging all employees in going after that vision makes for highest function (especially for all you efficiency folks out there). Highest function and greatest care for each employee. That is a vision all of us could share or even own.Photo Credit: Flickr
What all this says to me is that people matter. Not just the most brilliant, bombastic, or brand-worthy, but everyone in the organization. Maybe you already work in such a company. if not, you …each of us can move it in the direction of such a company.
After all…it’s Monday. Who knows what could happen by the end of the week?
Happy Weekend…without further ado, here are my Friday Faves, before it gets too much farther into the weekend. Enjoy.
1) My Happy Place – “My happy place” has usually been a phrase that makes me cringe when I hear it. What does that really mean? Then it came to mind this week as I strolled through a local business. RVA Antiques. This huge space is a showcase for all things 20th Century, upcycled and updated for today’s customer. Artful and lovely. Having just picked up a prescription at the pharmacy next door, I had some time on my hands so popped in…just on a whim. It was a real refreshment for my soul. I like old things…the stuff of my mom’s era makes me think of her…and that makes me happy. Words also just bring smiles …those words worthy of being painted on a canvas or splashed on a piece of wood. Just strolled around the different vendors’ booths. Even met one of the owners, Dean Lewis, who made me feel welcome. Now that my understanding of such “a happy place” has been enlarged, what’s one of your “happy places”?
2) Preventing Generosity Burnout An article by Adam Grant and Reb Rebele got me thinking this week about generosity burnout. Beat Generosity Burnout confronts the crucial fine line between effectively helping others and giving so selflessly we lose our joy and capacity. We burn out. If we base our helping on “the need”, we won’t build in safeguards, boundaries if you will, to determine how best to meet that need. Serving our communities is definitely something we need to always consider, but we serve best by applying sustainable, capacity-building planning and practice.
Think of the ways you serve your various communities across a typical week or month. Are you all-in or holding back out of fear of too great a commitment or fear of burnout? Or what else? We definitely want to rise above the latter but what might “all-in” look like to be sustainable? For you personally and for the sake of the community you serve?
I would love this sort of dialogue with you. Either in Comments below or via email.
[Sidebar – for those of you who flew through this, already cynical and shut down from demands/needs of your organization or community, please reconsider and lean in. People very close to you may be teetering on generosity burnout and could use your thinking on sustainability.]
3) Whistle-blowers – Who are these people? These who bring unethical or illegal practices into the light? These who risk reputation and career…even more at times…to expose wrong? This was a big news week in America. One of those related to Christopher Wylie, a former employee of Cambridge Analytica (CA) and a whistle-blower. Wylie revealed an incredible, yet not-surprising abuse of Facebook user data by the political consulting company Cambridge Analytica. This company has probably had influence on presidential elections in the US, Kenya, Argentina, and other countries.
First, the company secured Facebook user data by claiming it would be for academic research purposes rather than commercial purposes. Then the company used an app (a pop-up quiz on Facebook) to glean more data about the user’s personality. This was multiplied through the users’ friend lists…resulting in millions of Facebook users manipulated by Cambridge Analytica. Based on their findings, CA would then post “fake news” to these users’ pages that would move them to possibly vote in a certain way. This is essentially “weaponizing the internet”.
I’m not sure of Christopher Wylie’s motives in whistle-blowing at this time, but it definitely gives pause to every request we consider in clicking yes to an app having access to our data.
What is also thought-provoking is how this practice goes much farther back than just the 2016 presidential election.
Something to ponder…thanks to Christopher Wylie, previously the perpetrator, now a champion for truth.
4) Spotify – So many of you may already use Spotify, this music service for smartphones and computers. I’m a late adopter but now I’m a happy consumer of this free medium. Especially since Beyond the Guitar has his first album on the site. So nice just to be able to click on, and listen to Nathan’s music while I’m driving or working.
His first published original composition, Evenglow, is also available on Spotify.
31 years ago yesterday, I woke well before dawn and knew right away why. It wasn’t the wild wind of Spring, bringing in the month of March “like a lion”. What woke me was the beginning of labor that would last all day. As we drove to the hospital, the wind gusts pushed against our little pickup truck and added to the deep memories of that morning. Many hours later, our firstborn arrived.
This morning was very much like that morning long ago. I was, however, wakened this time by those March winds, blowing hard outside. No going back to sleep, I settled in front of the fireplace with coffee and reading…reflecting on all the good of this week.
Here are my five favorite finds:
1) Perspective – Two authors this week caused me to think deeply about how we make decisions and choose directions. Writer pastor Scott Sauls (author of a favorite book Befriend) wrote a series of “What ifs” in his blog this week. Here are a few:
What if, in the spirit of Paul intelligently and winsomely engaging Greek academics with the truth of the gospel, Christians became known for engaging in thoughtful, enriching, challenging, and honoring discourse about God, humanity, and life (Acts 17:22-34; Colossians 4:6; 1 Peter 3:15)?
What if, in the spirit of how care was given to vulnerable children and women in the early church, women experiencing the trauma and fear of an unplanned pregnancy began to think first of local churches, not local clinics, as a comprehensively life-giving place of comfort, counsel, and care (James 1:27)?
What if, in the spirit of Scripture’s vision for the integration of faith and work, Christians became known as the bosses everyone wants to work for, the colleagues everyone wants to work alongside, and the employees everyone wants to hire (Ephesians 6:5-9)?
Also innovator Steven Kingwrote of making a decision NOT to become a professor in North Korea. Unlike professor Tony Kim and others who now languish imprisoned there without benefit of a trial or any contact with family or other representative. Remember the #USA3.
2) The Academy Awards – The 2018 Oscars ceremony is coming up this weekend. Among the nominees is The Greatest Showman‘s “This Is Me”, the original song by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul. The song celebrates the beautiful humanity in all of us, no matter our differences or peculiarities.
[Sidebar – There are 4 other original songs in the Best Song category of this year’s Academy Awards. One of them is Remember Me from the film Coco. Here is the Beyond the Guitar‘s arrangement of this lovely lullaby.]
“Why do giants lose? Because they can’t see….they’re so big and strong and powerful they lose the ability to kind of properly appreciate the world around them. It’s not just a story about David’s courage and greatness…it’s a story about Goliath’s blindness.”
In a video montage (archived on YouTube), Gladwell gives clarity to how we can be successful in life (even with Goliath’s):
4) Relationships – They are the heart of life. Relationships. Friendships. As we get older, too often we allow friendships and family relationships to go untended, unnurtured. To our own peril.Photo Credit: Flickr
This week, I also discovered this young and dynamic pastor, Michael Todd. His sermon series on relationships is like having coffee with a trusted friend who knows stuff and is funny to boot. The first sermon is Before the Person: Relationship Goals. [You can start 20 minutes in.]
He presents how God provided for Adam in the Garden with Eve, but not before He set other things in place first.
5) Changes in the Weather – I love this changeable weather. This week was such a mix – short sleeves one day, cap and jacket the next. As I say earlier, this morning was so windy, it woke me up before 4:00am. It’s still blowing hard hours later. Our wind chimes are ringing like church bells on a wedding day. Crazy wonderful weather.
[My garden flag flew away and I grabbed my jacket and I walked, still in pjs and slippers, until I found it.]
The beauty of this time of year in Virginia also changes with each passing day…more and more blooms heralding the coming of Spring.
So there you have it. What were some of your favorite finds this week? Please comment below. Also, take care out there in this weather. Enjoy the sun when it comes, and take the rain as a gift to wind down a bit from your week. With much love.
Did you catch the ice skating gala performance on NBC the night before the 2018 Winter Olympics closed? The finale was amazing, as all the medalists performed to the Oscar nominee song “This Is Me” (yes…again). I thought it would be easy to find the professional videotape of this event but all I could find were fan videos. Still, they are fun to watch…especially capturing the joy of Japanese skater Yuzuru Hanyu. Enjoy:
What do our faces and body language communicate? A friend and I were talking recently about how, as we’ve aged, our faces apparently have a resting pose of anger or disapproval. What?! When we were clued in on this, we both took action to keep a bit of a smile on, as a practice to avoid being misunderstood.
Not really a blind spot or is it? Blind spots are features of our personality (and physicality) that communicate something (usually negative) to others yet we are unaware of it ourselves. Blind spots are not necessarily intentional and if we were made aware of them we might be highly motivated to change or reckon with them.
Do we have blind spots in our posture and our behavior? In our decision-making or execution? Yes…and yes.
This isn’t a case for navel-gazing or over-thinking. We actually can’t discover our own blind spots without the help of others. However, sorting out our blind spots can, in fact, makes for healthier and happier relationships. As we realize how these not-easy-to-see patterns can have impact on work and life.
Following are four takes on blind spots by four business leaders. You seriously might want to jot down any of the blind spots that could be at work in you. Then check out these authors’ take on how to wrestle with these blind spots. Read the full articles by clicking on the links.
[Teman goes into these 10 surprising “don’ts” in her article here with excellent counsel on how to get started dealing with these blind spots. Her expertise in crisis management in companies and careers gives weight to the idea of steering clear of over-trust and leaning into tested verification. Fascinating.]
Levin’s consulting firm provides help with leadership and strategy development, as well as culture-building. I am amazed sometimes what kind of assistance we can get online for such things. You can read more on her 10 leadership blind spots and especially her 5 compelling prescriptions for them here.
Expecting Others to Put in More Than You’re Willing to Put In
[Read Nieuwhof’s succinct and helpful commentary on each of these here.]
Months ago, I also wrote about blind spots (here). The following is an excerpt:
Life coach and writer Martha Beck prescribes a way to discover our blind spots.
“I know how valuable honest feedback can be, how much precious time it can save in my struggle to awaken. I still have to force myself to go looking for it, but when I do I almost always benefit.
Try this: For a week, ask for blind-spot feedback from one person a day, never asking the same person twice. Just say it: “Is there anything about me that I don’t seem to see but is obvious to you?” You’ll probably want to start with your nearest and dearest, but don’t stop there. Surprisingly, a group of relative strangers is often the best mirror you can find. I’ve worked with many groups of people who, just minutes after meeting, could offer one another powerful insights. Like the emperor in his new clothes, we often believe that our illusions are confirmed by the silence of people who are simply too polite to mention the obvious. Breaking the courtesy barrier by asking for the truth can change your life faster than anything else I’ve ever experienced.” – Martha BeckPhoto Credit: Vimeo
As hard as negative feedback is to stomach, it is a great help to avoid continued odd responses from people or the distancing that can happen when our blind spots get in the way of intimacy and care in relationships.
Now blind spots and “buttons” are different and yet connected. Buttons – those things people do that make us crazy – actually point to some of our blind spots in the way we respond to people pushing those buttons.
For instance, one of my buttons is when someone treats me like I’m stupid, or gullible. Like when a person tries to help me understand a decision he/she has made as if it’s a good thing when I know, and he/she knows, it’s not necessarily a good thing for me. This sort of thing makes me really burn (standing in the need of prayer here). OK…that’s a button, but my response can reveal a blind spot. My blind spot is that if I take a stand in some area then it means that I am “totally right” in that stand. Sort of the same as the button but from a different direction, you know what I’m saying? My blind spot response in that situation leaves little room for figuring out what the other person’s own “stand” truly meant. It’s helpful to know our blind spots and our buttons so we can work out ways of being more honest and honoring in our communications with colleagues…well, with everyone.
Here we find ourselves in the last Friday of 2017. Such a mix of emotions, closing out one year, anticipating the next. These reflections have definitely colored my selection of these Friday Faves. How is your year ending? How is your week ending? This week of Christmas rolling into New Year.
1) Leaning Into Relationships – Dr. Robert Waldinger is the current program director of the 75+ year Harvard research study (entitled the Grant Study, with a subsequent complementary Glueck study). In a wildly popular TED Talk on What Makes a Good Life?, Waldinger talks about the findings of this long study of men (and later their wives and children). The data strongly support that a long and happy life is not about genetics or socioeconomic status. It is about relationships, relationships, relationships. Not the superficial or fleeting acquaintances often seen today in workplace and community. The “good life” is made up of sustained, deep, nurturing relationships. Relationships you can depend on…long-term.
“Loneliness kills. It’s as powerful as smoking or alcoholism.” — Robert Waldinger
2) Year-End Review – Dave and I, like many of you, I’m sure, do a year-end review. It’s a discipline that helps us reflect on the year in anticipation of a strong start to the next year coming. This year-end review becomes part of our Christmas letter. Photo Credit: Pixabay
This year was a hard one, both to reflect on and to write about. It was more a year of hanging tough, holding the rudder steady, persevering. Being thankful for more the big general things (good health, having a job) rather than the small significant events – those highlights that punctuate most years. Please don’t get us wrong: we are still very thankful for all the big general things and for a God who knows our hearts and loves us through the prickly places of personal struggle. Thank God, for GOD.
Through the years, Dave has enjoyed the wit and writing of humorist Dave Barry. His 2017 year-end review is biting to the point of being caustic. Not the usual chuckle. An atheist and libertarian, Dave Barry’s take on life in America, especially this year, does not hold anything back. If you read his piece, I want to warn you of the graphic and partisan elements you will find. However, the question Dave Barry asks over and over is “Did That Really Happen?”
That question is one that resonates for us as we work and live in a culture so different than we imagined at this stage of our lives. Funny guy Barry turns darkly serious in his take on politics, in particular, and life in America, in general. His last comments, in his long month-by-month year review, return to more his usual funny style. In the end, he actually communicates hope…and, although we come from vastly different takes on life (especially on God), we share his hope. This, because we believe God is at work…and is not bound by politics or religion.
3) Coco Guitar Arrangement – The 2017 musical fantasy film Coco which I wasn’t interested in watching until Nathan arranged this beautiful piece from the film.
4) Attention Management – As we think of New Years’ Resolutions, one issue that always tops the list (after eating and exercise) is improving our time management. Writer Oliver Burkeman has posted a thought-provoking, down-right riveting piece on attention management as the real key to our struggle with making best use of our time. It’s not about getting our Inbox to zero as it is about thinking through what is most important in life. What really matters? And then being about that. Burkeman highlights below:
“The allure of the doctrine of time management is that, one day, everything might finally be under control. Yet work in the modern economy is notable for its limitlessness. And if the stream of incoming emails is endless, Inbox Zero can never bring liberation: you’re still Sisyphus, rolling his boulder up that hill for all eternity – you’re just rolling it slightly faster.”
Personal productivity presents itself as an antidote to busyness when it might better be understood as yet another form of busyness. And as such, it serves the same psychological role that busyness has always served: to keep us sufficiently distracted that we don’t have to ask ourselves potentially terrifying questions about how we are spending our days. “How we labour at our daily work more ardently and thoughtlessly than is necessary to sustain our life because it is even more necessary not to have leisure to stop and think,” wrote Friedrich Nietzsche, in what reads like a foreshadowing of our present circumstances. “Haste is universal because everyone is in flight from himself.”
You can seek to impose order on your inbox all you like – but eventually you’ll need to confront the fact that the deluge of messages, and the urge you feel to get them all dealt with, aren’t really about technology. They’re manifestations of larger, more personal dilemmas. Which paths will you pursue, and which will you abandon? Which relationships will you prioritise, during your shockingly limited lifespan, and who will you resign yourself to disappointing? What matters?” – Oliver Burkeman
5) For Better or Worse –Our dear strong father/father-in-law, John, has Parkinson’s. This disease is robbing him of his strength, his memory, his speech. One thing it will not take from him is Julia. His wife of over 60 years is his primary care-giver.
As we were visiting them over the Christmas holiday, I overheard her talking to our son, Daniel, about marriage. She was helping John finish his lunch. I could see her leaning tenderly over him, as she chatted with Daniel. John doesn’t say much anymore, but Julia still talks to him. Lovingly drawing him back into life.
She was telling Daniel about the vows she and John made to each other all those many years ago. This was the season of “for better or worse”, she told Daniel. Not in a self-pitying way, but in her matter-of-fact wholly committed way. Julia loves God and she loves her family…that love tempered like steel through decades of attending to each.
Over the many years her son and I have been married, we have watched the love between them, her and John, grow even deeper. I remember how he would come in from working in the yard, still neat as a pin, with a little bouquet of flowers for the love of his life. She added those little flowers to the beauty which was ever their homes, richer with each season’s changing. Also Julia was ever faithful at “greasing the tracks” for deepening their walk with God and serving in the church. John’s own strong integrity and high sense of responsibility was boosted by Julia’s strong spiritual devotion.
His days of serving are done, but she continues to serve him and the God who watches over each of them…in these times of “better or worse”. May I be the kind of wife she is.
Those were my faves for this week. What have been yours? Any thoughts about what you’ve read above? Please comment below. Have a safe New Year’s Eve and a joyous reflective start to this next year. May we see peace and goodwill and may we be the start of that for each other.
Attic Finds – Any trip to my Inlaws makes for tons of sweet memory-making. It also means trips into the attic and retrieving some of the lovely keepsakes MomMom has kept for us over our years of overseas travel. This time we brought home pictures from the pre-digital era, toys and clothes from our kids’ yester-years (including Christie’s wee “zippahs”, and treasured journals/letters.
Quote: “Do not waste time bothering whether you ‘love’ your neighbor; act as if you did. As soon as we do this we find one of the great secrets. When you are behaving as if you loved someone, you will presently come to love him.” – C. S. Lewis
Best Seed Catalog Ever (Gardener Dave’s recommendation)
The Energizer Bunny is an iconic symbol of its own message: “It just keeps going and going…” Such is our belief in high capacity employees and volunteers. In fact, the default is never imagine these tireless folks could run out of steam.Photo Credit: Sarah_Ackerman, Flickr
They don’t usually. However, there are situations when their “keep going and going” is out the door.
[High capacity: Nieuwhof describes these folks as those who “can attract other capable leaders; don’t drop balls; love a challenge; constantly overperform”.]
This content is easily generalized to the workplace.
Before we launch into Nieuwhof’s observations, let’s celebrate high capacity folks for a moment. Even as you read this, you may be thinking of a colleague or fellow volunteer who immediately came to mind. That person who stays long at-task after others have lost interest, determined to figure out the solution or finish the project. That person we count on to be “a rising tide that lifts all boats”. That person who carries the ball or puts all she has in the game as if the outcome depends on her. Dependable, tireless, and visionary. Like in the classroom, we in leadership roles too often focus on others more than these because 1) others are either more needy or more demanding, and 2) we figure these “energized” ones don’t need our oversight.Photo Credit: Pixabay
We communicate core values in this, whether we’re aware or not. Nieuwhof’s insight and counsel are much-needed in a high-pressure workplace or organization. For leaders who themselves are already stretched, we count on our high capacity folks to stay at the work they love and we focus our energy elsewhere. Actually, the return on such our investment here, as prescribed by Nieuwhof, would work to our advantage.
The challenge isn’t big enough. – When the role is too well-defined and task-oriented with little scope for a broader impact, high capacity individuals may lose interest. It’s less that they have to matter (to the larger organization) but that their work matters…and they can see that by the trust given to them in the challenge.
Your vision, mission and strategy are fuzzy. – Nieuwhof defines these as:“Mission is the what. Vision is the why. Strategy is the how.” If high capacity individuals are clear on the why, they can engage with the mission and go all crazy with the generation and execution of strategy. Leaders are wise to set vision and then let loose these folks to get after it.
You’re disorganized. – Plenty of us struggle with being organized. It can come with the chaotic schedule of leaders and managers. As we work with our high capacity employees and volunteers, we are wise to focus on providing them with what they need to be successful (direction, resources, right people at the table – including those in charge, on occasion). As time-consuming as this may seem, the outcomes will always be worth it.
You let people off the hook too easily. – Nieuwhof doesn’t mean this in a mean-spirited way. Without intention, we can find ourselves modeling a low-accountability, slacker-friendly work ethic. Not because it is what we value but because our own heavy work-load keeps us from moving our personnel (or volunteers) to the next level of performance. We talk about it (in meetings galore) but we struggle to truly expect it in a real (work)life situation. We keep depending on our high performers to carry the bulk of the workload. High capacity individuals don’t necessarily mind the work but they crave high standards. They see the value and want it for themselves and for those they work alongside. Again, not in a mean way but in a genuinely caring way.
You’re not giving them enough personal time. – Ouch! Where on our full to busting schedules are we going to insert time to touch base with our high capacity folks? We’re talking minutes here – fractions of time in a workweek – that will yield way more than we think. Dropping a meeting or two off our schedule to add face-time with these individuals will speak volumes to how you value them and what they bring. “Unless you’re intentional, you’ll end up spending most of your time with your most problematic people and the least amount of time with your highest performing people. Flip that.” – Carey Nieuwhof
You don’t have enough other high capacity volunteers (or employees) around them. – We make a grave error in judgment when we think our high performers just want to be left alone to do their work. These individuals are often energized by others like them. They welcome opportunities to learn from and encourage each other. Turn over large projects to these folks and give them the authority and resources to run them together. Then give them the perks of such responsibility – they present on the project; their names are linked to the project; they travel to represent the project. Is it because high capacity individuals need the recognition or significance such a collaboration gives them? No. They have already had the satisfaction of doing a good work with valued coworkers. What this does is to say to the company, organization or world that their bosses truly know and publicly value their contribution. That matters.
A lot to chew on on a Monday morning. Thanks, Carey Nieuwhof. Please write another piece on how you apply this wisdom in your own workplace.
[By the way, y’all, don’t miss the Carey’s commentary on his 6 reasons AND the comments at the end of his blog – so good!]
When we see individuals in the military with some form of Special Forces training and experience, we are captivated and sorely aware of how different they are from most of us. That level of discipline, courage, expertise and physicality is uncommon. Nothing I ever imagined for myself. Still what can we learn from these leaders that we can apply to life and work?
Although the book Extreme Ownership was published in 2015, it was unknown to me until this weekend. Thanks to my Twitter feed and then reading some reviews, I ordered my own personal copy. The authors, and former Navy SEAL team commanders, Jocko Willink and Leif Babin are heroes and the stuff of legend.
[OK…I haven’t read the book yet…pre-ordered the latest edition coming out November 21, 2017. however, the reviews and summaries (listed in the links below) have already been so informative, I will gush away even before reading the book. So sink your teeth into these bits below until we have both read the book…or have you already read it?]
The phrase extreme ownership really tantalized because it spoke to my own leader heart. It resonates with servant leadership which is hard to fathom as a norm in military structure and authority. The idea of everyone on a team, in an organization, owning their part of a vision or operation is thrilling to me. It makes sense that this would, of course, lead to highest performance…provided…and this is imperative: the leadership, up and down the organization, is equipping each team member, communicating thoroughly, and sharing decision-making as appropriate.
“Without a team – a group of individuals working to accomplish a mission – there can be no leadership. The only meaningful measure for a leader is whether the team succeeds or fails.”
“For leaders, the humility to admit and own mistakes and develop a plan to overcome them is essential to success. The best leaders are not driven by ego or personal agendas. They are simply focused on the mission and how best to accomplish it.”
“Leaders must own everything in their world. There is no one else to blame.”
“There are only two types of leaders: effective and ineffective. Effective leaders that lead successful, high-performance teams exhibit Extreme Ownership. Anything else is simply ineffective. Anything else is bad leadership.”
“Leadership isn’t one person leading a team. It is a group of leaders working together, up and down the chain of command, to lead.”
“Ego clouds and disrupts everything: the planning process, the ability to take good advice, and the ability to accept constructive criticism. It can even stifle someone’s sense of self-preservation. Often, the most difficult ego to deal with is your own.”
“As a leader, it doesn’t matter how well you feel you have presented the information or communicated an order, plan, tactic, or strategy. If your team doesn’t get it, you have not kept things simple and you have failed. You must brief to ensure the lowest common denominator on the team understands.”
“Human beings are generally not capable of managing more than six to ten people.”
“Trust is not blindly given. It must be built over time. Situations will sometimes require that the boss walk away from a problem and let junior leaders solve it, even if the boss knows he might solve it more efficiently.”
Business leader Tom Niesen also lists his takeaways from the book, and they align nicely with the other summaries I read:
Mission (Commander’s Intent and Effectiveness)
It is on the leader! (Assuming a good “hire,” now, it is the leader).
Extreme Ownership – everyone believes in the “why”, understands the “why”, and then pursues the “what”. Beginning with the leader. But, everyone “owns it all”.
Get rid of the undermining, not-carrying-the-load, under-performer [this should be a rare necessity in extreme ownership but it can happen].
Get very good at information sharing.
Simplify! Keep it simple. (Not simplistic – simple).
Communicate – thoroughly communicate. Up and down and all around. Confirm that the communication was sent and received and understood.
I hope these two summaries (and others in the links below) will whet your appetite to consider reading Willink’s and Babin’s book. Especially consider taking steps toward extreme ownership in your business or organization.
Sometimes, we struggle in leadership to trust those around us to speak into decisions or even to carry out their assignments without us hovering. Worse is when we just don’t trust others and, as a result, take too much responsibility on ourselves or just a few trusted members of the team. I’ve learned through my life to take joy in the many…even with all its messiness.
If we want processes neat and tidy, we must hold tight to control and keep our trust to a very few colleagues.
Extreme ownership requires a great deal from leaders. We must operate with wisdom and excellence to fully equip our teams and then to give them the freedom to execute. Clear and full communication, up and down the command chain, greases the tracks for this kind of operation. Shouldering personal responsibility at all levels is also crucial, but the key is ultimately the executive leader takes full responsibility in the end…especially if something goes wrong.
I love this concept of extreme ownership. Who’s with me? Fortunately we can apply these principles without having to go through the grueling process of being a Navy SEAL. Thanks, Gentlemen, for your incredible service.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons