Tag Archives: Monday morning

Monday Morning Moment – Elevating Our Work – with John Burke and Benjamin Hardy

Photo Credit: Benjamin P. Hardy (l), John Burke (r)

On the weekend, I was catching up with a bunch of friends who gather occasionally to keep relationships up-to-date. The question around the table was “So what’s new and exciting?” That usually elicits baby news, job changes, latest relationship, and emotional or situational struggles. I was completely engaged in what they were all saying…and then it was my turn.

I had nothing.

After stammering over what I could add, I pretty much just confessed to the mundane nature of my life. Vanilla was the only flavor that came to mind.

On the drive home, clarity prevailed and the largeness of the past year’s events filled my mind’s eye like watching an action film on the big screen. More “new and exciting” than I imagined could happen in a year – a grandson’s birth, a cancer diagnosis, my father’s illness and death were just some of the scenes of the last several months.

Then, right there, in the dark car, I was filled with gratitude that a merciful God filled all of that with His presence. Sometimes I forget to say out loud how incredibly good God is to be in our lives…and to never leave us alone in the hard.

Today’s “new and exciting” is that I am cancer-free right now, that darling baby is the star of his own music video, and acute grief in losing our dad is shifting to savoring memories of all our years together.

There’s more though…
Later in the weekend, I read this enlightening piece written by Benjamin P. Hardy. He interviewed composer and pianist John Burke about how he pushes himself to create.
Burke listed out four strategies that he regularly uses to “elevate” his work.

1. Always Work on Something You’ve Never Done Before

2. Map It All Out From the Beginning

3. Apply More Layers of External Pressure Immediately

4. Put Creation Time On Your Daily Schedule

Read Hardy’s piece for the particulars of Burke’s creative habits.

Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Burke’s approach to work, in general, and creating music, in specific resonated with me for two big reasons. The first, is that I had seen his system for creating in the habits of our composer/guitarist son, Nathan Mills (Beyond the Guitar). The second reason is that I see what the “new and exciting” had done to my own creative habits.

I had settled into a sameness, a smallness, that had become a prolonged recovery time for me. Healing was imperative, but there comes a time when we gather ourselves up and get back into life. The Hebrew King David’s example came sharply to mind – after praying and fasting for his terribly ill son – 2 Samuel 12:18-20 – at the news the child died, David rose up, washed and dressed, worshiped God, and ate.

The “new and exciting” for this Monday is to take John Burke’s strategies to heart. When a person gets her life back after a cancer diagnosis, and recovery is behind her, the best medicine is to get on with life…with a renewed passion and intentionality.

Thank you, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Hardy.

My husband has described this “elevating our work” with the phrase “Shifting to the next gear”. That’s what I want for this next chapter of my work life. I’ve been driving the service roads, and now it’s time to get back out on the highway. To adjust my life to a greater difficulty and higher speed.

Elevating our work requires adjusting our thinking in that direction as well. [See links below.]

I’m ready to take the next gear.

How about you?

John Burke: 4 Strategies to Continually Elevate Your Work – Benjamin P. Hardy

Persevere – My Interview with Grammy-Nominated Pianist and Composer, John Burke – Podcast – Katy Galli

John Burke – YouTube Channel

10 Steps to Successful Thought Leadership to Elevate Your Career and Your Organization – Glenn Llopis

A Health Blog – 10 Proven Ways to Help Boost Creative Thinking

Elevate Your Leadership – Marlene Chism

To Expand Your Influence, Elevate Your Capacity to Think – John Maxwell

Critical Thinking Exercises: 9 Facts and How They Elevate Your Mind – Katrina Manning

Monday Morning Moment – Résumé vs. Eulogy – On Befriending Our Colleagues

Photo Credit: Tangram

Don’t you hate when, out of all the positive exchanges we have at work, there’s that one negative that hangs in our memory? It was a team-building exercise on trust really early in my career. One of the people on my team, with whom I worked at the time, just wouldn’t engage. She finally said, “You are just my co-workers. We are not friends.”

We are not friends.

Slayed.

Throughout my career, I’ve made it a goal to befriend colleagues – those close to me and up and down the ranks. Befriending isn’t becoming best buddies necessarily. By definition, it is “to act as a friend to; to help; to aid”.

When this coworker, in my professionally formative past, expressed openly that we were just a part of her job…I was surprised and schooled. For some, relationships at work are compartmentalized in such a way as to keep them formal and shallow.

There is a measure of safety in keeping work relationships at a distance. I get that. However…

When we spend more waking hours with our colleagues than with even the closest of our loved ones, they bear some significance.

I’ve just begun reading Scott Sauls’ book Befriend: Create Belonging in an Age of Judgment, Isolation, and Fear.   I wrote about it here a few weeks back as the next book on my reading list. The author Scott Sauls is a pastor, but more than that, he is a friend. Not because I know him personally, but because the imprint of Jesus is on his writing and life. He is not preachy or churchy (in the way it was never meant to be). Sauls is wise, loving, and inclusive. Whether you are a person of faith or not, if you want to deepen your friendships and work relationships, sampling the pages of this book will aid you on your way. This book itself, like Sauls, actually befriends you.

Photo Credit: Amazon

My Monday blogs are often reserved for workplace matters – either the culture of our workplace or our very careers. Sauls talks early in the book about how we view success in life. He recalls David Brooks‘s take on our achievement culture.

“We live by two sets of virtues: the résumé virtues – things we bring to the marketplace – and the eulogy virtues – things we want said about us at our funerals. Brooks concludes, ‘In [our] secular achievement culture, we all know the eulogy virtues are more important, but we spend more time on the résumé virtues.'”

What people think of me when I’m gone is less important than truly making a difference in this life. When it comes to our work, I think we all want to add value, not just to the product, but to the people with whom we work and for whom we provide services.

We can get caught in the press of beefing up our résumé and lose sight of the people, real flesh-and-blood people, all around us. Oh, we may not call our focus résumé-building, but when we take a moment to check our motives, it becomes more clear. Ambition, self-promotion, and exclusive control can crush work relationships. We often think it’s someone else but before long it can become us.

I will never forget a colleague who shared about his own pivotal relationship with someone he once considered a difficult boss. They argued over every idea, every decision, every action plan…at least, as this man remembers. His boss was always asking hard questions and pushing him to think more and more outside the box. Yet, in the middle of his heatedly trying to persuade his boss of the rightness of his ideas, the boss would look at his watch and say, “Let’s go get some lunch.” This would infuriate the man re-telling his story.

However, over the years, he began to see something in his boss he didn’t notice at first. This older man genuinely cared for his young protégé. The banter back and forth was to encourage excellence and innovation but never at the expense of valuing the relationship. That’s why lunch together was all part of the exchange. He mattered to his boss.Photo Credit: Free Stock Photos

Later the older man retired and the younger man advanced in his career. Their paths rarely crossed after that. When the older man finally died, his wife called this colleague and asked for him to be a pallbearer at his funeral. The older man had come to consider the younger a friend…and the younger man, as he teared up in remembering, was the better for it.

I’ve written often on complicated work relationships – the us vs. them situations and dealing with contemptuous colleagues among others. We can be tempted NOT to befriend.

Photo Credit: QuotationOf

However, we are the ones who lose the most in not extending a hand of befriending (acting as a friend) to those with whom we work. It changes us, from the inside out, and we live only in the land of résumé-building, rather than eulogy-making.

Sauls writes about expanding our “us”. In the workplace, this can be extraordinarily counter-cultural. To look out for our own status and position is expected. To consider how we might take down silos and create a work community where “the rising tide lifts all boats” (Adam Grant) – something remarkable and memorable.

That is the legacy, years ago, of that coworker/”friend” of mine. She made me more resolved than ever. I want to be a befriender, a boat-raiser, and a person willing to expand the “us”.

Sauls closes this chapter by asking the question, “Where is your greatest opportunity to expand your “us”? It has me thinking. How about you?

“Compelled by the love of Christ, we must not withhold kindness or friendship from any person or people group, and we must not engage in any sort of us-against-them posturing. This in itself is countercultural in modern society. Compelled by the truth of Christ, we must honor and obey the Creator’s design—even when his design is countercultural and, at times, counterintuitive to us. His ways and his thoughts are higher than ours.”

20 Quotes From Scott Sauls’s New Book on Friendship – Matt Smethurst

Monday Morning Moment – Roadmap to Achieving Your Goals in Real Time and Regular Life – 10 Sure Turns

Photo Credit: edX

Life happens. Whatever our hopes, goals or dreams, we go after them in real time and regular life. The challenge is to not lose sight of them in the course of working your day-job, whatever that might be. Jon  Acuff’s book Do Over came out at a very timely place of transition in my life. The recurring theme of his book was to do what it takes to get where you hope to go – not finding yourself at the end of your career realizing you just clocked in and out of “someone else’s job”…for decades. The daily of our lives can snuff out or overshadow where we knew in our hearts we wanted to go…in work, relationships, and vision. Mark that and take positive steps through it.

I’ve read ever so much more about goal-setting than I’ve actually used. In thinking of goals and action plans, I can actually feel an eye twitch coming on…and all I want to do is eat junk food and check Facebook. Alas…goal-setting is a challenge…but a worthy one.

Roadmaps are helpful for me. Not only with finding the destination but also with marking progress, checking for more scenic routes, noting markers which teach us stuff, and pointing to rest stops.

After reading the articles linked below, a roadmap for decision-making has emerged that makes sense to me…and hopefully will be helpful to you. We need goals or we are never fixed on a mark toward which we launch our best efforts. The key, however, is not just in deriving the goal but, setting a course that aligns with our relationships and responsibilities. That way, when setbacks come, they don’t put us off-course. We just deal…and get back on course.

So here we go:

10 Sure Turns Toward Achieving Our Goals

  1. Listen to the Longing – As we get older, our goals change in life. Still at a heart level, we have longings for a life of deep purpose and genuine achievement. Those longings may be as unique as we all are as people. We are never too old or our lives too far-spent to tune into that longing. It’s never too late.
  2. Tell Those Closest to You – Don’t keep to yourself what you would love to pursue. Tell those who care for you so much that they will pour into your vision and your goals. Fear of failure or disappointment won’t diminish your hopes if others share them with you…because they love you and believe in you.
  3. Set Goals and Then Revisit Them With “Why’s?” – This is actually some of the hardest work of moving forward and stymies some of the best of us. Serge Popovic breaks this down in a helpful way by looking at the systems (or commitments) that help us get to goal. The goal is our destination but we daily make decisions and take action toward that goal. These rhythms are part of the discipline of achieving our goals. They also inform our direction as we revisit our goals and ask the necessary “why’s”.Photo Credit: Dreams Procrastinated
  4. Consider the Costs and Work Them into Your Plan – In setting course to meet life goals, there are givens we must consider. Taking care of our family is an obvious one. Managing our time around other responsibilities. Not missing our children as we strive toward that goal that can stretch years ahead. The costs don’t have to alter our course, but we must reckon with them.
  5. Organize Your Life – Why is this important? Organization can have a huge impact on recouping the costs (in #4) and in freeing us up to potentially getting to goal faster. Do be careful what your organize OUT of your life…especially relationships. Make wise decisions here… It’s one thing to get rid of stuff or downsizing time-wasters, and another thing to neglect relationships.Photo Credit: Paul Sohn
  6. Choose and Develop Your Team and Expand Your Network –
    Speaking of relationships, this is one of those circles that can pay huge dividends for all involved. Rarely do we make goals that don’t include the investment of others. Think through the people you know and who of those would be a great support to your future. They could be idea-generators, mentors, investors, content experts…and some could be family who mostly cheer you on and pray for you in the battles.
  7. Take Action or Execute Your Plan – What? Taking action is point 7 on a 10-point roadmap?! We have clearly taken action in multiple ways already, but those preparatory functions have set the stage for a strong start to execution. Even through Steps 1-6, we may have already reframed what the plan looks like. Being proactive before we set the plan in motion greases the tracks for achievement. The action plan will be revisited often…which actually makes it less stressful for me to develop. Melanie Curtin even writes about journaling our goals and action plans, giving us a daily view of progress.
  8. Deal With the Drag of the Past – This is a preemptive strike against those emotions that form barriers to reaching our goals. That dull sense of foreboding, the failures of the past, the gnawing insecurity, the temptation to blame…. None of these keep us from reaching our goals, unless we empower them to do so. Lighten the load by cutting the ropes on the past. One caveat: the “drag of the past” doesn’t include wisdom we’ve gained – Remember that part of the past always.
  9. Allow for Respites and Setbacks – Again, life happens. I have had to sideline some goals in recent months because of health and family issues. They are not gone from my mind or my habits…but they are sidelined for the moment for real life things of more urgent need. However…these kinds of things can become normative if we aren’t careful. You don’t want to lose momentum …keep moving toward your goal if at all possible…even if it’s ever so slowly. At some point, sooner than later, revisit and reset goals…and rest when that’s the greatest need.Photo Credit: Bloom to Fit
  10. Celebrate and Express Thanks All Along the Way – no explanation needed here. This isn’t just for the finish line but for every step along the way. For every barrier that we turned into a door. For every problem we forged into an opportunity. For every God-orchestrated appointment and “per chance” meeting. Celebrate. Show gratitude. Widen the circle – your achievement is enjoyed by many!Photo Credit: Morning Business Chat

Hopefully, you found this helpful. The resources below informed this piece and are all rapid reads if you want to go deeper in a direction. I hope your main-takeaway is that you can achieve and starting today is not too late…starting is the point. You’ve got this!

Achieve Your Goals – Is Your Roadmap the Right Way Up??? – Wendy Tomlinson

Goals vs. Commitments: A Simple System for Long-term SuccessSrdjan “Serge” Popovic​

10 Quotes That Will Radically Reshape Your Idea of Calling – Paul Sohn

50 Goal Quotes that Will Inspire and Motivate You – Marelisa Fabrega

When It’s Good to Be Bad – The Road to Excellence Is Paved With a Few Lapses On the Way – Cody Delistraty

6 Ways You Are Making Life Harder Than It Has to Be – Paul Angone

How to Crush Your Goals in 2017 – Travis Bradberry

Crushing Your Goals…God’s Way – Stephen Altrogge

Want to Improve Your Focus and Lower Stress in 2017 – Take Up This One Simple Habit – Melanie Curtin

YouTube Video – A Tale of Two Brains (“The Nothing Box”) – Mark Gungor

Photo Credit: AllGroanUp

Monday Morning Moment – 22 Influencers and Thought Leaders You Want In Your Life

Photo Credit: Arnold Street

Who are the influencers in your life? Those people who hold your attention, who cause you to think, who give impetus to change. Who are those thought leaders who challenge you – those whose reach exceeds their grasp?Photo Credit: Inc.

It wasn’t so long ago, in the training division of our company, that our director actually reprimanded new employees about their phone use during a session. It wasn’t so long ago…but it seems so. These days, no matter who is speaking at the front of the room, heads are down in the audience, folks pounding out texts or scrolling for their amusement. How do we fight this mental and relational disconnect?Photo Credit: PC World

What has helped me in recent years is finding people both inside and outside of my organization whose thinking inspires me…and learn from them. We have so many helps in print and electronic form. So much encouragement and possibility…in the words, attitudes, and actions of these business and professional leaders.Photo Credit: Hashmeta

In 2012, I became a Twitter user. It was a boon for me intellectually and a huge assist as I began a very new and challenging job. I began by following people I knew and respected in my field and then chose from whom they followed. Social media can keep you from deep thinking and problem-solving UNLESS you use these networks to broaden your understanding of people and processes. Twitter has done that for me.

[Sidebar: Social media has also been a source of professional encouragement for me. When Patrick Lencioni followed me on Twitter after I wrote about his influence in my professional thinking, it was, as you can imagine, huge for me. Such a small thing…but so significant for a novice writer and workplace thinker.]

Below you will find 22 influencers in my life, in alphabetical order, most of whom I discovered via Twitter. [These are just a few, but as I was going through my Twitter follows, these are the ones I wanted to showcase first.] Give them a look-see and a follow if they scratch your particular itch…professionally. You can find them via their websites also, especially if you’re not interested in subscribing to Twitter. It’s been akin to graduate education for me (but much more practical and timely, given where I am career-wise).

Moe Abdou – Founder of 33 Voices – interviews (podcasts and blog) with a wide array of entrepreneurs, innovators, thought leaders.

Sam Adeyemi – Senior Pastor of Daystar Christian Centre, based in Lagos, Nigeria. International speaker and a positive force in casting vision and leadership development for a new Nigeria…and Africa.

Ron Carucci –  Cofounder of Navalent –  best-selling writer, consultant, and speaker on executive leadership, change, and strategy. He is one of the good guys…how do I know? He actually follows ME on Twitter and has even read my blog. Sharp and people-smart. I’ve also learned from one of his teammates: Jarrod Shappell.

Randy Conley –  Works with Ken Blanchard and writes for Leading With Trust. Selected as one of the Top 100 Trust Leaders (2012).

Mark C. Crowley – Authored the book Lead From the Heart and writes at his website on the same topic. Speaker and consultant. Love his thinking.

Brian Dodd – Writes at Brian Dodd on Leadership. Prolific and brilliant maker of bulleted lists. My goal is to make one of his lists one day. Dodd serves pastors but helps all of us with leadership insights from a huge range of sources – athletes and coaches, and a myriad of other cultural icons.

Tom Elliff – Tom is not on Twitter but you will want to hear him speak any chance you can. He also writes at Living In The Word. Author of many books, his latest is The Unwanted Gift focusing on his and his wife’s journey with God through cancer and grief. Tom is a master story-teller, effective encourager, and all-round good guy.

Christopher Gray – Founder of My Scholly. While in high school with no means to go to college, he did the work of applying for every scholarship for which he was a candidate. Tedious, tedious effort that paid off. This deserving young man was awarded 1.3 million dollars in scholarship monies. He was able to both pay for his college education and set up a business to help other young people, as well, find the means to pay for their college education. Amazing story.

Mike Henry Sr. – Founder of Lead Change Group. Writing for global leaders who want to apply Christian principles to their business. Solid practical training/teaching/mentoring no matter your beliefs.

Photo Credit: Inbound Growth

Ryan Holmes  – Founder of Hootsuite – a great help to us in juggling our workplace or personal social media needs. Holmes is also an insightful futurist who writes and consults to prepare us for what’s next in the business world. He has written on Generation C and old-school hacks for building a 2017 work culture. Fascinating stuff.

Gerald Leonard PfMP – Writer, consultant and speaker on business processes and work culture.  Author of Culture Is The Bass. A business thinker, Leonard is also a bass player and uses music as a platform for teaching on culture. Great teaching (written and video) on his website Principles of Execution.

Susan Mazza – Speaker, trainer, leadership coach. Writes at Random Acts of Leadership.

Ron McIntyre – Principle leadership coach at TLGCoach. Consultant and writer. Great helps on website.

David Mills – Google this guy and you will find a professor, writer, atheist, and actor…none of whom are him. He is a quiet man with strong integrity. A PhD. in chemistry and a couple of decades working overseas. He was leading from the heart years before Crowley’s excellent book came out on the same topic. Mills’ workplace and leadership insights inform much of my thinking. He follows me on Twitter and I follow him…not surprisingly since I’ve been following him for more than 30 years…wherever life takes us.

Michael A. Milton – Founder and president of Faith for Living, Inc. He is a theologian, song-writer, and teacher. Author of the book Silent: No More: a Biblical Call for the Church to Speak to State and Culture. His tweets and writing on his website inspire and challenge.

Mark Modesti – Consultant with UPS Customer Solutions. TED Talk – The Argument for Trouble – Disruption in BusinessGreat leadership resource on Twitter.

Matt Monge – Founder of The Mojo Company.  He consults and writes on all things business, leadership, and work culture. He has also endured through depression which gives him particular insight into some of the things that make us want to give up. If you work, you want to learn from Matt Monge. Full stop. And HE follows me on Twitter.

Carey Nieuwhof – Pastor, blogger, podcaster. His is one of the few blogs that I welcome to my inbox. He has authored Lasting Impact and Leading Change. He writes to leaders, some of whom are pastors.

Star Parker – President and founder of the Center for Urban Renewal and Education (Urban CURE) – political conservative confronting poverty in our country with real substantive solutions (quoted here). Inspiring and courageous voice.

Srinivas Rao – CEO of The Unmistakable Creative Podcast. I learn so much from this guy and his varied guests – all unmistakably creative.

Paul Sohn – Award-winning blogger, speaker, leadership coach. Author of Quarter-Life Calling. Appreciate his blogs so much.

Liz Wiseman – President of The Wiseman Group. Author of Multipliers. Heard her speak at the Global Leadership Summit and just wanted to follow her around and bring her coffee. Truly smart and encouraging.

That’s it for now…would love to know who some of your influencers and thought leaders are. Please share in Comments for all of us. Thanks.

Global Leadership Summit – Registration Information

Monday Morning Moment: Rocking Your New Year’s Resolutions With True Habit Change

Blog - New Year's Resolutions - davidlose.net - Calvin & HobbsPhoto Credit: DavidLose.net

[From the Archives]

New Year’s resolutions are really very energizing. Whether we meet our goals or not, there is great promise within the resolution for resetting our thinking. A keen sense of self, or self-awareness, makes a difference in understanding our habits and progressing toward true habit change.

A couple of times in my life, I resolved to go off sugar. With a resolution like that, it meant abstaining from chocolate…which is a topic all its own.

Anyway, I was successful for over a year each of those times in excluding sugar from my diet. Never having really lost the weight from my first pregnancy, I decided to remove sugar from my diet for the pregnancy of our second-born. In those days, there was a chapter of Overeaters Anonymous in our town, and that group was a great help in my dealing with pretty much a sugar addiction.

The second time I “gave up” sugar was over 3 years ago, and I stayed the course of that habit change for over 1 1/2 years. Less accountability but even more resolve. Although I am back having dessert or sugary snacks sometimes, I am still operating with more self-awareness than ever before. Self-awareness, not self-condemnation. A very different experience.

Without knowing it, I was using a practice of habit change that Ken Sande writes about on his blog, Relational Wisdom 360. He first influenced my life years ago with his work on conflict resolution through his Peacemaker Ministries. He is a gentle guide in many of the issues that complicate our lives.

His New Year article on Seven Principles of Habit Change comes at a great time. Sande talks quite kindly about how we develop habits and what it takes to change them. His first principle of habit change gives us a look at the cycle of habits – the cue, the routine (or response), and the reward. Anyone who loves chocolate can understand this easily. For me, in eating sugar (or in overeating, in general), the cue could be a number of things – fatigue, anxiety, loneliness, presence of yummy food. It never takes much to send me to the refrigerator or pantry. The routine: feed the cue, whatever it is…with high-carb oral gratification. The reward: a brief soul satisfaction and temporary relief from whatever was the cue.

Blog - Habit Change - relational wisdom 360Photo Credit: Relational Wisdom 360

In my two seasons of not eating added sugar, I actually followed Ken Sande’s principles below (without knowing the wisdom of it).

  1. Every habit has three parts: a cue, a routine, and a reward.
  2. You can change an undesirable habit by keeping the cue and reward but learning a new routine.
  3. The best way to overcome the temptation to revert to old routines is to have a detailed action plan.
  4. Habit change builds momentum if you can change a single “keystone habit” and then continue to build on consecutive “small wins”.
  5. Will power is like a muscle: it can be strengthened and yet needs to be exerted strategically.
  6. Faith is an essential part of changing habits.
  7. Habit change is more likely to occur within a community (even if it’s just two people).Ken Sande

[If any readers want to talk further about habit change regarding sugar addiction, I would love the exchange, either through the comments or email.]

Self-awareness is a huge factor relating to habit change. I can see that more now having come through seasons of looking at my own habits.

“Self-awareness is defined as conscious knowledge of oneself; it’s a stepping stone to reinventing oneself, learning to make wiser decisions, and helps you tune into your thoughts and feelings. So often we place blame on externalities because it’s the easiest excuse, when in fact we should be thinking about our thinking, reflecting, trying on different perspectives, and learning from our mistakes.”Paul Jun

Matt Monge wrote a great piece on 13 questions we might ask ourselves to better understand why we do what we do. He is applying these questions to leadership and workplace, but they apply as well to habits. Also, in researching for this blog, I came upon this YouTube video of David Wallace Foster giving a commencement speech on awareness. Really thought-provoking as well as entertaining.

It is possible to affect true habit change if we are willing to take a studied look at ourselves – our awareness and our engagement with making choices/decisions and within relationship. I used to think that self-awareness was morally charged, i.e., it drove us to becoming more self-centered. That doesn’t have to be the case. When we take time to really examine where our minds go, through the day, we can train our thinking toward what matters most to us – related to people, resources, and life purpose.

When we are willing to do that, New Year’s resolutions can become much more life-changing than just going off sugar for a few weeks. These same habit change principles can apply to anger issues, pornography, other addictions, and pretty much any habitual process that negatively affects your work, relationships or general peace of mind.

I’d like to close with Ken Sande’s thoughts on taking self-awareness to other-awareness and God-awareness:

“The better we know and follow God (God-aware, God-engaging), the more we will know and discipline ourselves (self-aware, self-engaging), which opens the way for us to better understand, relate to, and serve our neighbors (other-aware, other-engaging).

To close the loop and spur us on developing relational wisdom, the Lord promises that the more we obey his command to love our neighbors, the closer we will draw to God himself (John 14:21-23). Thus, relational wisdom is a circle of interrelated skills that continually fuel one another.”Ken Sande

Blog - Relational Wisdom - Ken SandePhoto Credit: RelationalWisdom360

Do You Want to Change Your Habits? – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Seven Principles of Habit Change – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

13 Questions to Increase Your Self-Awareness – The Mojo Company – Matt Monge

Why Self-Awareness Is the Secret Weapon for Habit Change – Paul Jun

This is Water – David Foster Wallace on Awareness

RW Acrostics in Action – Relational Wisdom – Ken Sande

Need Help With Your New Year’s Resolutions? – David Lose

Monday Morning Moment – Them and Us, How Can That Be? Could Them and Us Become a We?

Blog - Work Culture - delta7Photo Credit: Delta 7

From the archives:

Recently, I was in an odd conversation with a friend from work. The more we talked, the more we sounded like a Dr. Seuss book. It went something like this:

“I don’t know how to be us with them. To be with them is to just be them. We must lose us; us no more will be. There’s no us in them; it’s so strange to me. How can they be them, with no us, you see? To give up us is too hard for me. So I can’t see a way to get to we.”

[Seriously, the conversation went like that…but better.]

Battling the us-them assignation is an ongoing workplace discipline. Even in the happiest, coolest companies, there is still an intentionality to keep work life positive for every employee. That inclusiveness is a hallmark for high morale and low walls (read: no silos).

BLog - Us vs Them - Work Culture - Silos - prolearn academy

Photo Credit: Prolearn-Academy

In a work culture where silos still exist, an us/them mentality can grow as each team or department draws in on itself and ignores or suspects the actions/values of others. It’s not a healthy situation for any of us…whether it’s the executive team insulated from others or the [fill in the blank] team hunkered down in its own mode of trying to survive. The first can be as unaware as the subject of the story “The Emperor’s New Clothes“, the second, well, is just miserable, and growing more so by the pay period.

So much has been written on this problem in the workplace – about that culture where us/them thinking and operations color productivity and morale. I have included several links below describing various recommendations and protocols to restore health to such organizations.

Blog - Work Culture 2Photo Credit: My Turnstone

I’ve always been that person who says, “Why can’t we just all get along?” In reality, we don’t have that situation always, but we can grease the tracks in that direction. Here are my own workplace rules regarding moving us and them to we:

  1. Make a practice of assuming the best of your bosses and colleagues. “Refuse to think ill of others” is my goal…and my accuracy in hitting that goal comes with practice and determination…and grace.
  2. Lean in to those with whom you struggle the most – the “thems” in your worklife. Especially the most powerful ones. Study them. Learn their language. Know them as well as you can. NOT for self-serving reasons, but for the benefit of the work itself. Any motive that only serves your personal situation will only make matters worse… ‘Nuff said.
  3. Refuse to get caught up in us/them complaining. Don’t make a big deal about it, but do your best to turn the conversation toward a positive end, change the subject altogether, or bow out if all else fails. Those negative conversations just bring you and your colleagues down and don’t accomplish anything. A short-lived “misery loves company” satisfaction isn’t worth the fall-out of such conversations.
  4. Bring down the silos, one brick at a time, if necessary. Maybe you aren’t experiencing any us/them anguish, but you know it exists. What can you do, individually and as a work team, to move to “we”? We have lots of work models out there for this. In fact, silos in the workplace are “so 80’s” (whatever that means…I hear it a lot, so I’m using it here). Use some of that meeting time, or talks over coffee, to be creative in how you can work better across teams…how you can learn more from each other…how you can defuse territoriality? If the “them” is management, you initiate dialog on setting work culture values that maximizes product excellence and employee engagement.
  5. Put processes in place – through your culture – to keep silos down. I would love to hear what your situation is and how you are making positive steps to grow/keep a healthy culture. Please comment below.

Sure…there are times we need to process a difficult situation at work with a trusted friend. Yes, us/them scenarios are painful…and wrong, honestly…especially in the workplace where we are meant to have shared goals, working toward the same outcomes. Maybe, the us/them relationships in a company are too distracting and we can’t see any solution (back to the Dr. Seuss-like conversation above). In that case, it’s possible we look outside our company for another situation. However, you take with you a piece of the us/them dilemma. You take you along to the next job. Better to develop muscle memory on how to “be we”, whenever possible, right where we are.

[Sidebar: I’ve written a lot about work culture – too many to mention – but you can search work culture under Blog – Deb Mills and learn as I have about what is possible if we stay engaged in our workplace.]

Blog - Work Place Culture - open.bufferPhoto Credit: Buffer

Overcoming Us vs. Them Challenges

Breaking the “Us and Them” Culture

How to Avoid Us vs. Them – Huffington Post

The 10 Buffer Values and How We Act on Them Every Day

The 4 Elements That Make Great Company Culture

How to Save a Broken Work Culture

From Us and Them to We Participative Organizational Culture

Them and us – How to use Trust as a Competitive Advantage

How CEOs Can End an Us Them Mentality

Us vs. Them – a Simple Recipe to Prevent Strong Society from Forming

Monday Morning Moment – Turning Around a Work Culture – From “Not Good Enough” to “Job Well Done”

blog-demanding-bosses-linkedin-dave-kerpenPhoto Credit: LinkedIn – Dave Kerpen

Aha moments can occur in all sorts of settings. My latest happened during our pastor’s sermon this week. Toward the end of a deep and fascinating exposition of Colossians 2, Pastor Cliff reminded us that we are not meant to earn God’s approval. He gives it unconditionally. Then Cliff talked about how we get caught in the trap of “It’s never enough!” when thinking of our efforts or accomplishments. Then “It’s never enough” or “Not good enough” too easily turns into “You’re not good enough.” This is the place where what we do intersects with who we are…

Switch from the Sunday Bible lesson to the Monday workplace application. I’m not talking the unconditional love of God here, but what happens to us in continuous feedback loops. Stay with me…This made me think uncomfortably about the way I once operated in the area of idea generation and innovation.

I am “an editor”…it gives me great satisfaction to take a document or process and make it better. Recently a friend asked me to edit his manuscript. It’s going to be such a great read…can’t wait for it to be published. Still, there will be lots of edits. For me, being an early reader, I just took care of some grammar and flow issues. There will be more qualified editors down the road. It’s enough for me to do quick, elementary edits and wildly praise the author and his riveting storyline, cheering him on to the next steps of publishing.

The tweaking that I used to do regularly in my earlier professional life was more intense in those days…and less forgiving. I wanted it (whatever it was) to be right, and it was my immodest opinion that I could get it to right. Especially when evaluating someone else’s work (ironically, I was less hard on my own work – figuring it was perfect already, right? Sigh…). The tweaking of another era has come round to a newish process called iteration.

One definition of iteration is the “process of learning and development that involves cyclical inquiry, enabling multiple opportunities for people to revisit ideas and critically reflect on their implication”. These feedback loops are meant to be fast-paced with the finish in view.

ScenarioPhoto Credit: SafariBooksOnline

Where iteration (or tweaking) breaks down (if I might be so bold) is when it’s taken well past rapid feedback loops into a realm of fine-tuning that has the team guessing “will it ever be good enough?” Product design and process development are vital to any company, but what we must also consider is the team or personnel involved.

If the feedback loops relate to the launch of a new product or a new business process, excitement and brainstorming are part of the momentum. Continuing to tweak over months instead of weeks before the launch can take a negative toll on the team. No one wants to forfeit excellence, but we don’t want to lose excellent personnel either.

blog-demanding-bosses-lifehackerPhoto Credit: Lifehacker

Trusting the judgment of our best thinkers is worth the risk of possibly releasing a product or service when we may not all be sure it’s “perfect”. That is what beta-testing is all about…the feedback that then comes to us from the consumer or user.

I’m really talking out of my element here (not being a designer or innovator so much as a lifelong learner). My leap from the sermon to the workplace relates to my own past struggle with wanting something with my name on it to be perfect while exhausting my teammates  with “what if we do this?” or “What if we say it this way?”

What a gift for us to take a well-thought-out proposal and, instead of putting it through the “just not good enough” wringer, we read it and pass it back to that colleague and say, “Good job”…empowering them to execute the proposal. How often does that happen these days?

Please share stories [in the Comments] of work situations where you experienced genuine affirmation for a job well-done.

Recently when water started backing up into the kitchen sink, I was afraid that it was something I had done. Too liberal using the disposal, for instance. Dave was out of town and nothing I could do would remedy the situation. Finally, on a Sunday afternoon, in desperation, I called our plumber (Richmonders, if you need a good plumber, email me, and I will give you his contact info). He came and fixed the problem, and best of all, it wasn’t my fault, after all. This young man literally LOVES his job and was kind to take the time, after he was off the clock, to give me the breakdown of what the problem was. What he charged me? Worth every penny…especially the part where it wasn’t something I had done wrong.

Why I bring this up is that being a fairly capable and creative person doesn’t prevent me from faltering at the likelihood that I messed-up.  See the Imposter Syndrome. My mental wiring is such that I get discouraged when my contribution to a situation actually causes more work for someone else, adds expense, or slows down progress. I’ve learned over the years that all that tweaking I may not have taken the product from good to great, and most assuredly caused some amount of frustration to hard-working, quality colleagues. Lesson learned.

There are times and seasons when tweaking is appropriate in developing a product and changing a business process. What we want to take into account is the cost of that tweaking, or iteration, on the people who make things happen in our workplaces. Free them from the “not good enough’s” to enjoy the fruit of “jobs well done”.blog-demanding-bosses-the-musePhoto Credit: The Muse

10 Tips for Dealing With an Overly Demanding Boss – Jacquelyn Smith

How to Get Over the Feeling that You’re Not Good Enough for Your Job – Michele Hoos

10 Things You Can Do to Get Out of Your Boss’s Doghouse – Brian Dodd

Why Incentive Plans Cannot Work – Alfie Kohn – Harvard Business Review

Good Is Not Good Enough: The Culture of Low Expectations and the Leader’s Challenge – Karlene M. Kerfoot

Innovation and Iteration: Friends Not Foes – Scott Anthony – Harvard Business Review

Holding a Team Retrospective – Morale

Workplace Bullying: Protecting Yourself at Work – Slideplayer

Monday Morning Moment – Uncommon Courtesy in the Workplace

blog-courtesy-adding-value-john-maxwell-iluvquotesPhoto Credit: iluvquotes

My mom raised me to be courteous…thoughtful towards all…civil in every circumstance…extending grace. Recently, I have become aware that my behavior in the company of others has become less courteous overall. Not in an intentional way, hopefully, but in a careless neglectful way. This is disconcerting because it makes me wonder how long has this been a part of my demeanor and deportment. Not necessarily with those closest to me…but with “the others” in life – the stranger, the coworker, the customer.

blog-common-courtesy-quoteaddictsPhoto Credit: Quote Addicts

Yesterday, not at work, I interrupted the conversation of three people. Not overtly, maybe, but it was a quiet drawing away the attention of one of them. Without even thinking, I was rude.

We don’t really mean to be rude or discourteous probably…but in the neglect of practicing courtesy…we can become “those people”…rude, disingenuous, self-serving people.

What does that look like in the workplace?

John Kyle describes rudeness at work:

“It can range from subtle things like eye-rolling to outrageous things like berating a colleague in a meeting.

Here are some common examples:

  • Gossiping and talking behind someone’s back.
  • Giving colleagues the silent treatment.
  • Interrupting someone when they are speaking.
  • Leaving trash and food containers in public areas like the office kitchen.
  • The work around – excluding colleagues from projects or meetings even though they should, by role and responsibilities, be included.
  • Being late for meetings or in other ways not respecting someone else’s time.
  • Speaking to people in a condescending way.

All of these examples of rudeness are forms of disrespect. A pastor-friend of mine once said that giving someone the silent treatment is the relational equivalent of saying, ‘I don’t respect and care enough about you to talk to you.'”

John Kyle, Chief Operating Officer for The Institute of Faith, Work, and Economics, also delivers some simple advice on how we might overcome rudeness at work. One of his tips is to make a practice of greeting people…just saying hello (using their name if you know it). How simple is that?! Yet, too often, we walk quickly by, head down, lost in our brilliant and important thoughts, or hanging on every word of that one we’re accompanying. Is it so hard to smile and nod our head at those we are passing by? Those who work with us, have the same vision, hope for the same outcomes, wrestling with the same struggles at work or home.

What Kyle reveals in his article on being courteous at work is that we expose our lack of regard for those around us by not taking the time for them…to say or do the small graces for each other that communicates that “there are no ordinary people”.

blog-courtesy-no-ordinary-people-c-s-lewis-pinterestPhoto Credit: Pinterest – WitandWisdomofCSLewis

His counsel echoes a book I recently read by John Maxwell – Intentional Living – Choosing a Life That Matters. Maxwell, like Kyle, talks about adding value to people…communicating that if we are not intentionally adding value to people then we show that we devalue them.

What do you think? It would be such a gift to have your comments on stories where you were treated with uncommon courtesy at work. Do you have examples of how such actions and attitudes are rewarded in your workplace? Do your bosses display this sort of worldview? Please share your stories…even the negative ones that might have given you pause about your own altered attitudes over the years.

As I described in the story earlier, this has certainly given me pause. I want to be a load-lifter at work. An encourager. A respecter of all persons…not just the ones who can help me get ahead with my career. It’s possible that I might have become a bit more curmudgeonly over time…and that’s not really the kind of coworker I want to be. My mom would be glad to see that I’m climbing out of this insufferable ditch – resolved anew to make a habit of uncommon courtesy.

Bringing Courtesy Back to the Workplace – Harvard Business Review – Ron Ashkenas

Why Is Common Courtesy Increasingly Uncommon at Work? Rudeness on the Rise – John Kyle

How do You Practice Common Courtesy at Work?

Workplace Etiquette – 4 Ways to Show Courtesy to Coworkers – Rachel Wagner

Uncommon Courtesy – Blog

Slideshare – Courtesy

How To Become a Curmudgeon – WikiHow – just for a chuckle!

Monday Morning Moment – What You Think of Others Matters – Workplace Wisdom

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 5

[From the Archives]

At first, you really liked working with this person. Then, bit by bit, he/she began wearing on you. He is always playing with his phone. Her solution to today’s problem is too labor-intensive. His email responses have become terse. She is late for your meeting. You think, maybe I was wrong about him. He is not the person I thought he was. Maybe, she’s the wrong person on the bus.

When a relationship begins to deteriorate at work (or home), you are wise to take steps to turn this around as quickly as possible. You could be in a work situation that has been difficult from the outset. It is still possible for you to make inroads in turning that relationship toward a more healthy or positive one. If not altogether, at least from your side. Consider an adage that has had a long and useful run in our family and work.

Your opinion of someone approximates their opinion of you.Dave Mills

There are exceptions, but I have found this to be wise counsel (from my husband, no less) in both personal and professional relationships. When what was a warm, congenial relationship takes a turn toward the negative, you can actually work, from your side, to restore the relationship. Even to take it to a deeper level. It can get more uncomfortable at first, because you have to start with your own thoughts toward that person. How have they changed?

We send signals to each other – whether we speak or not.

My Mom raised us out of the era of Walt Disney’s Bambi:

“If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.”

Good counsel except for the conversations that still go on in our heads and color our attitudes, our tone of voice, our preferences, and our decisions.

Let’s say I have an amicable relationship with a colleague, and then something happens. I may not even be aware of it – a misunderstanding, a misconstrued action, an insensitivity unaware. Then a chill develops, or a clear outright dislike. I have a window of opportunity to clear that up. Otherwise, if I don’t act, then a process can begin where I decide that person is a jerk and has woefully misjudged me…and off we go.

Remember: This can go both ways. You may have had a few off days with a colleague, and find yourself just not thinking so well of him, then stop it! It’s possible you can keep them from picking up that signal and prevent the relationship from getting more toxic as they decide you’re not so great either.

If I refuse to think ill of another person and discipline myself to be respectful, deferrent in my demeanor, and tireless in pursuing understanding, I could restore that relationship. If it doesn’t improve right away, my attitude and actions work for my own benefit and can definitely help build trust with my team members. One day…that relationship may also turn. It’s worth the effort.

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave

Jon Acuff talks about the four ways we invest in our careers – through skills, character, hustle, and relationships. In an interview with LifeReimagined.com, he had this to say about difficult, or neglected, work relationships:

“Even if you have skills, character and hustle, without relationships, it’s the career version of the Emperor’s New Clothes. Why?”

“If you don’t have relationships, you eventually don’t have people in your life who can tell you the truth about the decisions you’re making. You don’t have people who can tell you no or question you honestly. What I’ve learned is that leaders who can’t be questioned end up doing questionable things.”LifeReimagined.com interview with Jon Acuff

He identifies three types of people in our lives (work or otherwise, really): friends, foes, and advocates. Jon writes in Do Over:

“The best thing to give a foe is distance. We should ignore most foes. The problem of course is that we won’t. If your definition of foe is too loose and is essentially “anyone who kind of bothers me ever,” your job is going to be miserable. If you see people as your adversaries, it’s almost impossible to have a good working relationship with them. The first thing is to understand whether these foes are clueless or calculated. A clueless foe is that person whose behavior encourages you to fail. They are not malicious. They are not trying to make you lose, but with the power of their influence you are. “Bad habits are almost always a social disease – if those around us model and encourage them, we’ll almost always fall prey. Turn ‘accomplices’ into ‘friends’ and you can be two-thirds more likely to succeed.”Jon Acuff, Do Over

I think what Jon says is true. Because of my own worldview and value system (and married to Dave all these years), I don’t think we can just acknowledge there are foes out there and distance yourself from them. Sometimes, that is virtually impossible and still be effective at work. Because what can happen, if we don’t act to keep our own thinking clear, is that we take on some of that “foe-dom” ourselves. Maybe you aren’t going to be bosom buddies with this person, but your own work and other relationships can suffer if you develop bad habits around this person. Better to work on the relationship.

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 6 (2)Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 6

“For no matter what we achieve, if we don’t spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect, we cannot possibly have a great life. But if we spend the vast majority of our time with people we love and respect – people we really enjoy being on the bus with and who will never disappoint us – then we will almost certainly have a great life, no matter where the bus goes. The people we interviewed from the good-to-great companies clearly loved what they did, largely because they loved who they did it with. – Jim Collins, Good to Great

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 3

For as he thinks within himself, so he is. Proverbs 23:7

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 2

 Do Over by Jon Acuff

Fourteen Indispensable Leadership Quotes from Jim Collins – Thom Rainer

How to Deal With Difficult Co-workers – Read keeping in mind that some days you might be the one perceived as difficult.

Blog - What You Think of People Matters - Dave 4

Photos: Just a few of the men in Dave’s life who required no special work on his part to love and respect…and there are many more. Grateful.

Monday Morning Moment – Praying For Your Spouse [or Fill-in-the-Blank] in the Workplace

Blog - Praying for Your Spouse - the lifePhoto Credit: The Life

Sometimes really crucial opportunities pass us by…responsibilities, too, fall off our plates. We get busy…distracted. We choose the urgent without thinking. The urgent over the ultimately important.

This time, one year ago, I saw the film War Room. The plot centered on an older praying woman who mentored a younger woman, whose marriage was falling apart. She mentored, not so much about marriage, but about praying for her marriage. It had a huge impact on my heart…and my prayerlife.BLog - War Room to publish 2Photo Credit: War Room Movie

I prayed my heart out for my husband…and our children…some extended family…and close friends. I still pray for them…but in recent months, the urgency had faded. Other lesser things piled in and I allowed myself to become distracted and dull.

Until this past week…. This past week, I started a Bible study with some other friends who meet together regularly. The book study is The Armor of God by Priscilla Shirer. She is also the person, in the film War Room, playing the young woman in the troubled marriage. The study focuses on the Bible passage, Ephesians 6:10-19, and speaks about our role in spiritual warfare.

I had forgotten how important it is not just to pray generally and regularly for those we love, but to pray specifically and persistently. There is a big difference.

For several days, I have been praying for a difficult situation in my husband’s work life. It has been ongoing for some time, and he finally arrived to a point of taking action.

Yipes…I wasn’t at all sure I had prayed well enough for him. In fact, I was sure I hadn’t. There is no going back, but today, fresh in studying how best to pray for those we love, I took God at his word and have prayed differently. Trusting God to intervene as I stood, fortified, in his presence…as the Apostle Paul instructed in Ephesians 6.Blog - Praying for your spouse - true agapePhoto Credit: True Agape

The details of what happened at work are not necessary for today’s posting, but praying specifically, persistently, and according to God’s Word has made for a very encouraging turn in the situation. Honestly, I don’t think it would have played out as it has, if both my husband and I weren’t really seeking God’s solution for this.

Will it always work out to be a glorious outcome when we pray hard and in faith? I can’t say…not always praying hard nor in faith. However, when we do pray for situations at work instead of just ranting or processing over the dinner table, outcomes will decidedly be better.

Our work is such a huge chunk of our lives. To leave it to chance or charm or even competence…seems a risky business. What a privilege to pray staunchly and strategically for those we love in the workplace – our spouses, our closest friends, our children… Praying for our bosses and colleagues, as well, could improve both their lives and ours as well…not to mention the enormous ripple effect that can spread as God works in a situation.

This afternoon our joy is full. Even though my husband’s workplace may “seem” unchanged…it is wholly different because he has seen God work in a hard place. With complete assurance. I rejoice with him.

Work is a 3-song commute from home. As I was traveling in this morning, thinking about what was ahead of him and praying for the situation en route, these songs were the ones that came back-to-back on the radio as I drove in:

Pretty amazing, huh? What seems extraordinary can be our ordinary when we pray to a Father who wants to show himself mighty on our behalf. What better thing can I do for those I love than to pray hard…pray believing for them?