Category Archives: Workplace or Marketplace

Monday Morning Moment – Rewiring Your Brain Toward Thinking in the Positive

Photo Credit: Hubspot, Carly Stec

OK…so today started really great. Then it got a bit murky…then downright dark. I was all set to turn today’s blog into the ultimate rant! Fortunately, something else happened along the way.Photo Credit: AZ Quotes

Looking up meanings to words like “disingenuous” and thinking of the ways that people communicate that shut others down. Aarrgghh!

25 Phrases That Kill Workplace Relationships – John Rampton

Which of These Incredibly Annoying Pet Peeves is the Worst? – Analise Dubner

Then…I snapped out of it. Negative thinking is such an unhelpful, unhealthy activity. It is not how I want to be, nor was I ever…routinely negative, that is… until recent years. Getting older seems to bend us toward negativity. My mama sure didn’t raise me to be that way.Photo Credit: Disney Film Bambi, CineLessons, Pinterest

Somewhere in the middle of beefing up my rants on condescension  and exclusivity and those most affected by decision-making not having a place at that table (see the downward spiral?)…I took a deep breath and turned around. Dave will sometimes tell me “pull up” when he could see me mentally plunge downward…and so I did…pull up.

You may have read what I wrote previously about identifying negativity and correcting course. It seems to be a bit of a recurrent subject of late. Those pieces are here:

Monday Morning Moment – Grumpy Begets Grumpy – Understanding It, Not Reacting, and Turning It Around – Deb Mills

Monday Morning Moment – Negativity – Its Cost and Cure – Deb Mills

Today, I came across a super-simple prescription for rewiring our thinking toward positivity. The team at Daily Health Post focused on complaining as a culprit that can actually cause our brains to default to anxiety and depression. From experience, I know this is true. Check out the article below:

How Complaining Physically Rewires Your Brain to Be Anxious and Depressed

Photo Credit: Daily Health Post

The prescription for rewiring our thinking is straightforward and easy, with practice. In fact, these four reminders could easily sit on a card at our work station to help us stay on the road and out of the ditch:

  • Be grateful. – Keep a journal and write down things/persons for which you’re grateful – morning and evening. Turn your thoughts toward gratitude when you’re tempted to go negative/complaining.
  • Catch yourself. – Shake off the negativity before your friends/coworkers intervene…or pull away. Learn to catch yourself and change course.
  • Change your mood. – If your emotions start to spiral, shift your environment. Take a walk. Listen to music. Step away from your work station. Grab a few minutes with a friend.
  • Practice wise effort. – Wise effort is the practice of letting go of anything that doesn’t serve you. If your worry won’t improve your situation or teach you a lesson, simply let it go and move on.This is much easier said then done, of course, but if you write it out, ask friends for advice, and take some time to think it through constructively, it really can be done.” – Daily Health Post

All this is common sense. Still, in an age of outrage, we must practice thinking positively until it becomes a discipline…a healthy habit.

So…as fascinating as you would have found my rant, I’m sure…better to let it go…and the stress along with it. For now. There are things, destructive hurtful actions (or communications) that might need our intervention along the way. However, we only hurt ourselves and those closest to us when we just go all negative, faithless, and brooding. Thanking God, this is not how this day will end.

The Art of Being a Great Coworker: 13 Ways to Improve Your Work Relationships – Carly Stec

Photo Credit: Frank Sonnenberg Online

Monday Morning Moment – Overthinking – Handicap or Superpower?

Photo Credit: Confessions of an Overthinker

A blog on overthinking has been on my radar for weeks now, but I keep overthinking it!

How about a definition to start? Overthinking: “Something is on your mind and you continuously think about it, the thought gets deeper and you start thinking about circumstances, events and possibilities that could be…” I like this definition because it feels normal rather than obsessive, anxiety-provoking, or neurotic…with the resultant analysis paralysis.

My husband is a deep thinker but he is not an overthinker. He is adept at compartmentalizing and seems to know what each issue requires in terms of his own decision-making and personal responsibility.

For me, thinking through things is much more fuzzy-boundaried. I can be crystal clear about solutions – what needs to be done to take us (whomever “us” might be) to the next level of operation or relationship. Where I get muddled up is when a decision or a direction doesn’t make sense. Overthinking the why’s and “what happened?” goes into overdrive.

Being an overthinker is a new revelation for me. The “aha” moment came recently during a conversation with a brilliant young woman, a friend of mine who considers herself an incorrigible overthinker. We have deep conversations on just about everything. Total ease and transparency. No judging. It dawned on me as we talked that evening that we agreed on how much of life required some measure of overthinking. It’s just not that simple…life.

As I have processed this whole overthinking thing, it seemed a good solution might be to have a support group…along the lines of overthinkers anonymous. After a quick online search, a plethora of such blogs, websites, and Facebook pages popped up – with the goal of helping those of us who overthink.Photo Credit: Breadbin, Ken Breadner, Will Farrell

If you have a bent toward overthinking but you find it uncomfortable, then you have all sorts of resources to recognize it and turn it around. Below are just a few of those postings. [Scroll past them if you don’t want to be “fixed” for some happier news.]

Stop Overthinking and Live in the Present! – Darius Foroux

Overthinkers Anonymous

Rule 33 – If It Exists, I Have Overthought It – Ken Breadner

Overthinkers Anonymous – the 12 Steps – Thirsk Counseling

Are You an Overthinker? You’ve Been Poisoned.

Science Says This Is What Happens to You When You Overthink Everything – Amy Morin

What if…let’s just say…overthinking is a positive thing? What if we overthinkers bring certain strengths to the table that could prove valuable to a work team or family/friend group? What if overthinking, when disciplined and matured, could be like a regular superpower?!Photo Credit: Pinterest

The links below are all about overthinking is a positive (or potentially positive) character trait. The authors list out several strengths found in overthinkers. They include creativity, tact, self-awareness, eye for detail, memory/recall, intuition, life-long learning, empathy, compassion, careful decision-making, and a commitment to doing what’s right.

Overthinking Is Not as Bad as They Told You: 3 Good Reasons Why It Might Be a Real Superpower

12 Hidden Benefits of Being an Over-Thinker That You Need to Realise – Katie Adcock

Overthinking Is Actually a Good Thing – Holly Riordan

5 Exceptional Personality Traits of an Over-Thinker

6 Reasons Why Overthinking Could Be Good – Javannah Melissa Evans

Overthinking has to be trained and tooled toward positive outcomes. Since beginning to see my own bent toward overthinking, I no longer view it as a weakness. Others might, but hopefully not forever.

Overthinkers are sometimes criticized for “beating a dead horse“. It is very hard for us to give up on something that we feel strongly about. Here’s what might help, those of you who have us on your team or in your organization…to harness our problem-solving and decision-making capabilities:

Just trust that we mean “good and not evil“. Reason with us rather than just diagnosing us as bothersome. If we feel like something seems murky, if not downright wrong, consider the possibility. Entrust us with a meaningful project or body of work…we will apply ourselves probably more than is necessary, but you will reap the good of it, if you can endure the discomfort of our overthinking. We get that it is just easier to make that decision without a lot of extra input, but it’s possible the overthinker has thought of something you haven’t.

Just sayin’.

[I’d love to hear your thoughts on overthinking – in the Comments below. This overthinker has just scratched the surface of this topic and would love a chance to dialogue about all the positives and negatives.]

Monday Morning Moment – World-Class Leadership – Let’s Get After It

Photo Credit: Pixabay, Alexas Fotos

Monday’s are usually real up days for me. An opportunity for a fresh start…a new beginning. This morning I was dragging. Not really feeling it. In fact, wrestling against a flat-out negative mind-set.

What does it matter if I show up…or not?

Sure, we keep our commitments, make it to the meetings, answer the emails. However, a rut begins to form. A tuning down of expectations…or hopes. We check off our lists, but if we’re not vigilant, we find those lists lackluster…the vision dimmed.

You may never have to climb out of your own ditch, but I do sometimes. Having the help of another can make all the difference. A word of encouragement that resonates with understanding and care.

The quote below from my Twitter feed was all it took to get me back on course:

Photo Credit: Twitter, Ron McIntyre, PH McGillicuddy

A world-class organization: Happy, attentive people. Well-kept surroundings. Everyone cares about what they’re doing. A humble and gracious leader.

A world-class organization is the workplace where you want to alert your friends when a new position opens up. It’s the church you talk about all week long because being a part of it is real true community. It’s the charity you can trust with generous support.

Marketing strategist Julie Taeko Gramlich lists six characteristics of a world-class organization:

  • Delighted employees, customers, and vendors;
  • Innovation-focused, dynamic;
  • Outstanding leadership;
  • Mission-driven;
  • Operational excellence; and
  • Sense of ownership.

Gramlich prioritizes the role of the leader, whom we think of as the CEO, or the lead in product design, or the senior pastor, or whomever is at the helm.

If your boss or primary influencer is gracious, humble, generous with ownership, and driven by mission and excellence, then you have the great pleasure of working for a world-class organization. Or, for sure, it can be…

I am convinced we all lead, in one way or another. We bring to the table our own skills and our own caring for the others around the table. Mission drift doesn’t just happen to CEOs or boards of an organization.

It can happen to any one of us. This Monday morning I was reminded of the importance of staying on course, of not giving up, of genuinely caring for those around me, and of marking excellence in others and making it my goal daily…

I’m out of the ditch…one more Monday. Let’s get after it.

The Most Important Factor to Become a World-Class Organization – Julie Taeko

How to Make Your Organization an Irresistible Place to Work – Ron Carucci

Secrets of Kick Ass Teams – SlideShare – Paul McGillicuddy

Monday Morning Moment – Strengthening Decision-making with Collaborative Conversations

Blog - Collaborative ConversationsPhoto Credit: AJCarlisle.files.wordpress.com

[Adapted from the Archives]

Change is normal, and resisting change is normal as well. You may be part of an organization or company where sweeping changes are being implemented, even this week. Or maybe you are not on the inside loop of these decisions, so you are not privy to the change coming. Whether you are part of that process or not, consider how you might have a role in making change work, in your sphere of influence, among your colleagues.

You may already have read and profited from the book Crucial Conversations. Now consider collaborative conversations. Collaboration, simply defined, is “working together towards shared goals”. Collaborative conversations bring a collective intelligence to bear on the problem to be solved, vision to be defined, or direction to be changed.Blog - Collaborative ConversationsPhoto Credit: ThoughtFarmer.com

David Perkins, a Harvard professor, wrote about collaborative conversations in the workplace, using the metaphor of King Arthur’s round table. He described the beneficial nature of bringing several principal players (or stakeholders) to the table and treating each one with an equal or autonomous voice.

Perkins’ book King Arthur’s Round Table: How Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations is a tremendous resource in developing this kind of decision-making work environment. An Executive Book Summary* can help you get started.

“A round table makes it a little easier to pool mental effort. A round table makes a group a little more intelligent…For a group to display intelligence in a sustained way, the members have to value their exchanges and stick together to keep making them. This depends on positive symbolic conduct [side messages sent by our words and behavior]…and collaboration… It’s not ideas, but people with ideas that make things happen.”David Perkins

“One of the simplest ways to immunize a culture against broken trust, corruption, and animosity is to build a common vision.”David Perkins

I personally thrive in such a setting and intuitively understand the value-adding nature of collaborative conversations. In researching this workplace topic, and choosing the links below, I came across a fascinating paper** by Heather Davis, a professor of RMIT University Australia.

Davis presented her paper at the 14th International Conference on Thinking (2009, Malaysia). She discussed how workplace leaders often choose “languages of war” in making and communicating decisions and creating change. Her paper is heady stuff but if you read her thoughts below you will want to read the whole paper. It gives huge support to the role of collaborative conversations.

“In [leadership’s] ‘language of zealous allegiance’, there are expectations of allegiance [in the workplace] that lay a path for uncritical acceptance and passivity. This manifests in an expectation that followers be conscripted wholly to the cause. There is little room for questioning. ‘Conscription means one important thing: there is no questioning of orders, one only executes them; “either you’re with us or you’re against us”.’ “

“Rhetoric plays out in the workplace too and can be tested by how well leaders:

  • hear and acknowledge the ‘other’ point of view,
  • see the ‘other’ as people rather than pawns or simply abstractions,
  • manage the distance, materially and metaphorically, between themselves and the people and sites affected by their decisions.”

“In the corporate world there are many examples of executives living and working in gated communities or otherwise removed by dint of corporate hierarchy or geography from the people and conditions affected by their decisions. Often, these leaders are also surrounded by people who can only agree, leading to little opportunity for double loop learning or deeply reasoned decision making processes. Whether our leaders live in gated communities is their business, but if they think, work and take refuge within a ‘gated’ mindset then we all need to be concerned. These conditions lead to hubris and have been the undoing of many leaders and corporations.”

The role of the organisation is ‘to know its purpose and not be diverted from it’ (Drucker, 1993). This is a timely reminder here – easier said than done in times of flux, complexity and discontinuous change.”

“The main difference between Perkins’ languages of war and peace are that the war metaphor is founded on exclusivity and a preference for limiting discourse to its [leadership’s] own narrowly defined boundaries. Perkins’s peace metaphor is founded on inclusivity and opening up the space for conversations and conflicting views [i.e., collaborative conversations].”

“Oppositional language and the pitting of one deeply held worldview against another will not lead to resolving the underlying problems of the workplace. Rather, space for conversations to surface underlying assumptions is required. Perkins’ language of peace metaphor confirms that that there are always other lenses to view the world through, not just the one that [leadership] prefers.”Heather Davis

Provocative reading from this Australian educator.

Bottom line: Those of us in leadership carry a great burden of responsibility. We at times must make difficult and sometimes painful decisions. Adding voices to that decision-making can generate even more challenging processes to negotiate. However, we will make more sustainable decisions for “better futures” if we bring those most affected (or most experienced or insightful) to the table. Whenever possible. That’s the gain of collaborative conversations – working together toward shared vision and shared ownership.

Stay engaged in your workplace. Don’t entertain indifference. Stay in the conversation. You can make a difference.

*King Arthur’s Round TableHow Collaborative Conversations Create Smart Organizations by David Perkins – an Executive Book Summary

**Troubling Invisible Barriers to Better Futures: Surfacing the “Five Languages of War” in the Workplace – a scholarly paper by Heather Davis, presented at the 14th International Conference on Thinking

Leadership Lessons from King Arthur – a Review of Harvard Professor David Perkins’ book King Arthur’s Round Table

The Five Literacies of Global Leadership – What Authentic Leaders Know and You Need to Find Out – by David Hames – Business Book Summary

The Perils of Indifference – a Speech by Elie Wiesel

How to Lead When Change is the New Normal – Emer Coleman

The Art of Collaboration (Collaborative Behaviors) – by Steve Dale (includes a SlideShare)

Collaboration: What Does It Really Mean? – Carlos Dominguez

What Is a Coaching Conversation? from Opening the Door to Coaching Conversations by Linda Gross Cheliotes and Marceta Fleming Reilly 

Cutting Through the Hype – What “Collaboration” Really Means – ThoughtFarmer.com

5 Choices You’ll Regret Forever – Travis Bradberry

Monday Morning Moment – Operational Transparency – Opening Up Windows to Our Lives at Work, Home, and Community

Photo Credit: Flickr

Let’s take a close look at our work and life for a moment. When product and customer service are both excellent, we experience the greatest value as both employees and consumers. However, when there are processes at work that we can’t really visualize or don’t understand, we may question the value of either the product or the service. Especially when those processes are obscured in their availability. Especially if when we seek to see and understand, we remain without adequate information. We can grow disheartened, disgruntled, and even repelled.

Let’s have a look.

We could take a deep dive into government operations or into a large for-profit or non-profit, but let’s just look first at a very normal experience of a popular fast-food restaurant. Without naming the company, this chain is known worldwide for providing consistently good food. When the product is excellent, we don’t feel the need to look inside the operation (or kitchen, so to speak). As for customer service, that’s another matter.

In the rush of lunch-time ordering and food delivery at the drive-through, a young mother with two small children in-tow has to leave her car and come inside the restaurant twice for corrections on her order. One correction was just the number of chicken pieces (four when she asked for and paid for six). The counter staff person couldn’t take the four-piece back, in accordance with health standards, and give her a six-piece. So instead of just saying to the customer, “We’re so sorry. Keep the four-piece and I’ll get you a six-piece”, she tossed the four-piece in the trash can and returned, without emotion, with a six-piece. The rest of the exchange, on both sides, was polite but not restorative for either.

The mom will probably go back…one day…but this did not build the trust that could have been built. The employee also was probably not left with any sense of appreciation for how hard everyone was working behind the counter for demanding customers.

What does this have to do with operational transparency?

Well, given the perceived quality of the product, little transparency in food preparation was required. That wasn’t the issue. The small but significant dilemma here was the transparency of the customer service model (which was bare-bones “correct the problem” without consideration of customer experience or inconvenience – or so it seemed, from the employee’s response to the mother).

Harvard Business School professor Ryan W. Buell defines operational transparency as the deliberate design of windows into and out of the organization’s operations to help customers and employees alike understand and appreciate the value being created. To determine when and how to design such windows, managers must understand when and how customers and employees want to open up operations to scrutiny—and when both parties would prefer that work be undertaken behind the scenes.*

*Operational Transparency – Ryan W. Buell

Is too much of a company’s operations behind the scenes? Are we expected to just trust that companies, governments, and civic organizations are working with our best interests in mind?Photo Credit: Flickr

The article by Ryan W. Buell linked above is a brilliant examination, with lots of real-world examples, of how important transparency is in our operations. For internal and external outcomes – both with product and employee/customer relations. [Don’t miss the read.]

Back to restaurants, the food service industry is really starting to run with this. One of our favorite restaurants is Mezeh Mediterranean Grill. It is a highly visual food experience. You order at the counter with the help of customer-savvy servers who guide the diner through the process.Photo Credit: Reston Now

Employees not helping the diners are doing food prep and working the grill, all in plain view. By the time the customers reach check-out, they have a bowl or plate of generous portions of savory, authentic Mediterranean food plus an added sense of value from the excellent customer service.

Operational transparency.

Home delivery food franchises and online shopping companies are upping their transparency by providing accurate tracking options for their customers as well as other perks aimed toward customer satisfaction and loyalty.

Photo Credit: Twitter

In the workplace, we need to listen to customers who actually give us feedback, especially complaints. There’s much to be learned by that sort of engagement. Becoming more and more transparent will help. Buell’s research shows the employees benefit as much as the customer with greater operational transparency.

As a stay-at-home, work-from-home spouse, I understand my husband’s question of “What did you do today?” It is the same as my question to him. “Writing and laundry” and “meetings all day” neither tell the whole story of either of our days. Operational transparency applied to our dinner conversation could make it a whole lot more engaging and valuable.

Taking the mystery out of how decisions get made and products/services actually happen can add greatly to the employee and customer experience.

Just as our teachers in school instructed us to “show our work”, we can do that for each other in creative and credible ways.

I have no idea how a letter gets from my friend in London to me in Virginia in less than a week…but it is easy to get frustrated when it hasn’t arrived in three weeks. The postal worker dealing with my frustration would be well-served…as would I…by opening a window into the complexities of the work of mail gathering, sorting, and delivering.

My father-in-law went from being admitted to an ICU post-stroke one day, to lying in bed all the next with an IV hanging but not dripping and no word from a doctor, to a visit and discharge by a palliative care team the third day. We welcomed the discharge home but a bit more transparency on that second day would have been really helpful.

Operational transparency builds trust, enhances communication, and facilitates accountability (see image below). Even when transparency reveals a negative (as in the fast food experience of the young mom), the company can turn that around once exposed.

From the Ryan Buell’s article, in closing:

“Don’t forget to close the loop. Transparency is the most beneficial when it’s allowed to flow in both directions—from the customers into the operation and from the employees out to the customers. Forcing employees to toil in obscurity deprives them of seeing how their work is helping customers, reducing their feeling that their work is appreciated and undermining their motivation. What’s more, transparency for employees can give them the information they need to customize service and help them learn better ways of operating.

Consumers [can] take work for granted and employees [can] lose out on the learning and motivation that customer connections afford. With that in mind, businesses should stop reflexively hiding their operations for the sake of efficiency and instead thoughtfully consider when and how to open them up to create more value for customers and employees alike.”

Operational Transparency – Ryan W. Buell

Photo Credit: Flickr

Creating Reciprocal Value Through Operational TransparencyRyan W. Buell, Tami Kim and Chia-Jung Tsay

Let’s Be Real – Why Transparency in Business Should Be the Norm – Robert Craven

YouTube Video – Defaulting to OpenWhile transparency is often associated with increased accountability to the public, the most visible outcome of open public data in recent years has been more and better services for citizens. This session addresses the opportunities and challenges of making open data useful, actionable, and relevant for users inside and outside government. Mike Migurski Chief Technology Officer at Code for America moderates a conversation with Alan Williams, 2013 Code for America Fellow; Joy Bonaguro, Chief Data Officer, City and County of San Francisco; Ryan Buell, Assistant Professor, Harvard Business School; and Mark Head, Developer Evangelist, Accela

Open Data

5 Friday Faves – How to Train Your Dragon, Expressions of Kindness, Civility, the “Uneducated Base”, and Wonder

It’s the weekend! Friday Faves on a Saturday because I was slowed down a bit by an end-of-the-week stomach bug. 3 days in this quiet space…

and now I’m back at the computer briefly. So this will be quick.

1) How to Train Your Dragon – One of the most beautiful soundtracks I’ve heard is composer John Powell‘s score for the animated film How to Train Your Dragon. Nathan Mills has taken the This is Berk theme and arranged it for classical guitar…almost wrote Celtic guitar. Just have a lovely listen:

Beyond the Guitar YouTube Channel – Subscribe so you don’t miss his music as it’s posted.

2) Expressions of Kindness – It’s hard to believe it’s been just a bit over two weeks since Dave’s father died. His passing is still so fresh, and especially, for Dave’s mom. I’m so grateful for the many expressions of kindness she has received…and we have received as well. It is a marvel that people still send cards these days. Thank you.

3) Civility – This week I came across a TED Talk by writer Steven Petrow entitled 3 Ways to Practice Civility. In his talk, he defines civility as “living by a moral code, striving to be a good citizen…citizens willing to give of themselves for the good of the city, for the good of the commonwealth, for the larger good.”

Petrow gives his three ways to practice civility or civil discourse as follows:

  1. Deescalate language. “I’ve stopped using trigger words in print. By trigger words, I mean ‘homophobe,’ ‘racist’, ‘xenophobe’, ‘sexist’. All of those words. They set people off. They’re incendiary and they do not allow us to find common ground. They do not allow us to find a common heart.”
  2. Challenge policies; challenge positions; but never make it personal.
  3. Don’t mistake decorum for civility. One can demonstrate recognized etiquette in a situation and yet still be incivil (shades of Downton Abbey’s Dowager Countess).

Behavioral economist Julia Dhar has given a brilliant talk on civil discourse in both the workplace and in family/friend situations. She used her world-class debate background in applying the principles of debate to conversation where strong disagreement exists.

Here are my notes from her talk:

  • Debaters don’t choose sides. Discipline yourself to think through how you would argue the other side.
  • Find common ground.
  • Focus on ideas not identities.
  • Open yourself up to the possibility that you might be wrong – the humility of uncertainty.
  • Engage with the best, clearest, least personal version of the idea.

In her talk, Dhar emphasized how incivility doesn’t make us more persuasive. In her summary, she drove home three points:

  • Stop talking and start listening.
  • Stop dismissing and start persuading.
  • Stop shutting down and start opening our minds.

In the article below, Dhar’s prescription for real conversation is powerful. Face-to-face is so much more effective than all the messy communication we find in social media as well as the talking head approach of our politicians and news commentators.

6 Tactics to Turn Heated Dinner Discussions into Real Conversations – Lenora Houseworth-Weston

TED Talk – 3 Ways to Practice Civility – Steven Petrow

“Evil communication corrupts good manners. I hope to live to hear that good communication corrects bad manners.”
Benjamin Banneker

The Rules of Christian Decorum and Civility – John Baptist de La Salle (1703) – just for fun

4) the “Uneducated Base” – Bouncing this idea off my husband, he asked, “And what makes this a fave?” I was reading a Facebook post by a friend of mine (actually shared from a friend of hers). His post was focused on the argument for late term abortion. He gave all his perceived positive reasons (clearly positive, in his opinion) for late term abortion to be protected. Then he closed his post by putting all of us who oppose or struggle with the direction of such legislation in one political party’s “uneducated base”.

I’ve been thinking about this all day….and this health care dilemma for several weeks now that it is a legislative and cultural hot topic.

Photo Credit: Vimeo

We all have deep-held values and beliefs about freedoms, rights, quality of life, and the role of government in the community. In situations where we agree (in America, let’s say), then hopefully our representative government will agree also, aligning with our values. When we disagree we have a partisan government where our various elected officials speak on our behalf. Sometimes it is along party lines and sometimes it is not.

In thinking back on my #3 of civility, it is challenging to even have these discussions in such a manner where both sides of a disagreement can learn from each other and make better decisions. We wrangle and blame and putdown our adversaries. We escalate the argument with name-calling and demeaning language.

Conversations – even fake ones on social media – where we resort to such mean-spirited tactics – feel so middle school. These issues are too crucial to keep any side silent. Yet, it becomes the ones with the most stinging speech rather than the soundest arguments who win the day.

I won’t give up, but, for some reason, that one hurt more than a bit.

Any thoughts on any of this? In the Comments, please…and in the spirit of closing the divide.

5) Wonder – On a lighter note, I want to just finish with the wonder of life. This little one marveling at a stained glass window.

This man, my best friend, who had a full day of Saturday chores, still making sure I had food and fluids on a day of feeling puny.

The beauty of Spring popping up everywhere. What a wonder!

Here’s to a restful weekend – full of wonder – and filled with people you love.

Bonuses:

Operational Transparency – Ryan W. Buell – brilliant!

The Long Goodbye – The Kara Tippetts Story – produced by Jay & Sofia J. Lyons – finally it’s coming out on March 22. Pre-order now.

Parents’ letters to teacher about their kids then and now – one teacher’s experience:Photo Credit: Amie Diprima Brown, Facebook

Mass Mutual’s The Unsung – the Rained Out Wedding

Monday Morning Moment – Leadership Lessons – for All of Us

Photo Credit: Army.mil

Back to work.

What kinds of kickstarts do we build into our lives to consistently do a good job? When we lead out each week, are we leading on fumes? Or are we topping off the tank to get us and our team all the way through to goal?

Leadership coach Lolly Daskal has posted what she considers the 100 Best Leadership Quotes of All Time. Of those 100 quotes, here are just a few of my favorites:

3. ”A good leader leads the people from above them. A great leader leads the people from within them.–M. D. Arnold

7. “The greatest leader is not necessarily the one who does the greatest things. He is the one that gets the people to do the greatest things.” —Ronald Reagan

23. “Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it.” –David Star Jordan

28. “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right thing.” –Peter F. Drucker

74. “The task of leadership is not to put greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is already there.” –John Buchan

100. “The most effective way to lead is to lead from within.” –Lolly Daskal

Staying fresh is important in leading well. Hanging with our people. Bringing the vision. Seeing the work through their eyes. Assembling the puzzle (be it product or service) with the pieces that all involved bring to the table. This is leadership of the best sort.

Below are links to just three more pieces on lessons in leadership. Worth the time to read them. 5 of my favorite leadership qualities appear prominently over and over again: emotional intelligence, courage, communication, caring for the people, and transparency.

OK…Monday. We’re ready for you.

The Top Leadership Lessons of 2017 From Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Tim Cook, and Google – Marcel Schwantes

12 Principles of Modern Military LeadershipPart 1, Part 2, Part 3Capt. Ron Roberts

6 Inspiring Lessons About Success Most People Will Learn Too Late in Life – Marcel Schwantes

Worship Wednesday – Hold On to Jesus – Steven Curtis Chapman

Photo Credit: Daily Verses

“Do not fear, for I am with you; do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you; I will help you; I will hold on to you with my righteous right hand.”  Isaiah 41:10

“For I am the LORD your God, who holds your right hand, who says to you, ‘Do not fear, I will help you.’”  Isaiah 41:13

I follow close to You; Your right hand holds on to me. – Psalm 63:8

A recent episode of the ABC TV show The Good Doctor was striking in the portrayal of the doctors’ lives outside of work. The connect and disconnect of their relationships. In the last scene, the viewer was touched by the hopeful awkwardness of relationship, but more so the aloneness of the characters.  The final scene of this episode is poignant, both in the images of the various characters as well as the song chosen to highlight the background. British singer-songwriter Bishop Briggs‘ song Hold On caused me to hit rewind a few times.

There is a Gospel choir feel to the song itself…but no Gospel.

“We hold on together” is the message. If you are unfamiliar with the TV show, then you don’t know the various story lines knitted together in that final scene. It depicted a running theme of “holding on” – through complicated relationships, harrowing work situations, diseases and disorders, and grief and loneliness.

The question came to me: “What exactly are they holding onto… together?” Like most TV shows these days, the narrative is completely secular. The characters are beautiful and brilliant…it is just completely unclear what they are holding on…to…

Turning the TV off, my mind went to friends all over this city with their own challenging life situations…and family members in other states, the same. Much of life isn’t hard…but when it is, we pull ourselves together, and we hold on.

To each other, for sure. What a beautiful thing it is to be a part of a community that surrounds those struggling. The church has its frailties, but when it operates as God intends, “holding on together” can be a true picture of the love Jesus called us to… “loving one another as He loves us” (John 13:34).

Our “holding on together” extends beyond our relationships with one another. We can’t always be there for each other, even when we wish we could…BUT we can hold onto God who holds onto us.

He holds on to us even when our grip slips.

Songwriter/singer Steven Curtis Chapman describes what I’m talking about way better:

On God giving him songs of worship after a time of terrible loss: “These songs have come out of my own journey, particularly of the last seven years of learning the life-giving power of hearing my own voice and the voice of other believers around me declare what is most true and most real,” he says. “What God says is true — even when pain, doubt, grief and confusion are very real as well. There’s an incredible power in agreeing with each other, and especially with God.

Worship with me to Chapman’s song “Hold On to Jesus“:

I have come to this ocean
And the waves of fear are starting to grow
The doubts and questions are rising with the tide
So I’m clinging to the one sure thing I know

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

I’ve tried to hold many treasures
They just keep slipping through my fingers like sand
But there’s one treasure that means more than breath itself
So I’m clinging to it with everything I am

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

Like a child holding on to a promise
I will cling to His word and believe
As I press on to take hold of that
For which Christ Jesus took hold of me

I will hold on to the hand of my Savior
And I will hold on with all my might
I will hold loosely to things that are fleeting
And hold on to Jesus
I will hold on to Jesus for life

Hold on for life*

My older brother lived with our parents for a season, after a series of losses that could have crushed him. Mom, in her wisdom, had placed a painting by Alan Grant on his bedroom wall. It was this one:

Photo Credit: Alan Grant, Amazon

The God of the universe extends His hand to us. All we have to do is take hold. He then will never let us go. So we hold on…we hold on together.

*Lyrics to Hold On to Jesus – Steven Curtis Chapman

YouTube Video – Word of God Speak – Mercy Me

YouTube Video – Redeemed – Big Daddy Weave

Monday Morning Moment – a Snow Day and an End-of-the-year Leadership Checklist

Monday morning. Quieter than usual. 11+ inches of snow has closed down much of the goings and comings of Richmond life today.

Although we know it’s not really a gift of time, snow days sure have the feel of a free day. Work still goes on for some (thank you all in the service industries), but for others we will catch up another day.

Today I am working on Christmas cards but they can’t be finished until husband Dave and I do our end-of-year reflection. We both look back separately, over the highs and lows of the year, and then come together to write a summary for our Christmas newsletter.

[If you hate those newsletters, just throw them in your recycling. They are probably more for the sender as the receiver…so the good has already been done. Happy Christmas.]

Dave works for an international organization. If we had kids or grandchildren at home, he may have just called it a snow day as his office, like many others in the city, is closed. However, because much of his day was already scheduled conference calls with people in different parts of the US and the world, he could work, from his office at home.

I say all this to emphasize how challenging it is to do any sort of review of the year…even on a snow day.

Still, year-end reflections are such a positive and productive activity, both for ourselves and for our workplace.

By year’s end, we are often just trying to appease the tyranny of the urgent. The dilemma is that a work life of putting out fires rarely puts in place barriers that can prevent further fires.

A year-end checklist used by leaders in concert with their direct reports can make a huge difference in accountability, employee engagement, evaluating practices, and planning for the next year.

Otherwise we live and work in the insanity that comes when we don’t block out time for reflection, evaluation, celebration, and development or planning.Photo Credit: Twitter, Seven Quotes

We think we’re doing all those things…but are we?

Below, you will find five links with five different end-of-the-year checklists. Some are longer than others. Some require deeper reflection than others. They are a nice mix written by brilliant thought leaders. [two have the same title but they are very different, by two different leaders].

Tomorrow, I will post my favorite points of the checklists below. Today, maybe you would take the time to look at them, like me, and come up with a checklist you would use…or one of your own making.

A Year-end Checklist That Will Make You a Much Better Leader – Lolly Daskal (2018)

15 Things to Top Your Business Checklist for the new Year – Forbes – 2017

A Year-end Checklist That Will Make You a Much Better Leader – Marcel Schwantes (2016)

A Great Leader’s Year-end Checklist – Les McKeown – 2012

A Leadership Checklist – 10 Things to Do Right Now to Make it a Great Year – Terry St. Marie (2010)

Monday Morning Moment – When You Walk Out of a Meeting, and You Ask Yourself, “What Just Happened?”

Photo Credit: Media.Defense

Have you had that experience? Where you are meeting with your supervisor…either one-on-one or during a team meeting. She is guiding the conversation and asking compelling questions. Then you give your take on something, and it is as if you’re speaking another language. Then you make the judgment that this isn’t the meeting for you to lay out a strategy or viewpoint, so you stay silent. The meeting ends with your boss commending you/everyone in the room on a good outcome…”we got a lot done”.

Hmmmmm…”What just happened?”

I’ll never forget a strategy meeting earlier in my career. Fairly new to the team, I had been faithful to task in learning the processes and applying myself to fitting into the structure rhythms of our work team. When my supervisor called me in to talk about future directions, he asked my input on our marketing strategies. I actually thought he wanted to know what I thought. As we dialogued back and forth about what we were doing and what we could do to strengthen our messaging, I felt like a genuine and valued part of the team. Then my earnestness and enthusiasm must have gone too far. He commended my “good ideas” (a phrase that has come to mean a negative since then) and asked me to draw up a 5-year plan and we’d talk about those ideas again then.

Although he and I remain friends, we no longer work together. I never did that plan. The kind of work we did was so rapid in it evolution and execution that a 5-year plan was clearly irrelevant. It was clearly just a delay tactic for me to take my “good ideas” and tamp them down.

Not bitter…just wiser. So for that I’m thankful.

A meeting…or series of encounters that leave you wondering “what just happened” could relate to many factors. Culture shift, mission drift, power mongering. Any other factors come to mind for you?

I’d like to pose 3 actions that might help in awkward situations like these. They are by no means comprehensive. Just three helps.

1) Take notes in meetings. Put away your phones and other electronic devices. Pen and pad. Not being distracted by anything else will keep you more fully engaged with the conversation at hand. Note-taking is not for everyone, but you’ll be surprised how helpful it will be to refer back to the meeting conversation. Who said what? Where were the good ideas coming from? What were the responses? You can then keep communication going after the meeting in a healthy manner. You have captured the essence of what happened…important information is not lost…whatever happens next (execution of a plan or further planning meetings) potentially have the clarity you missed in today’s meeting.Photo Credit: PxHere

By the way, maybe someone is already tasked with note-taking. It’s for your sake…maybe only your sake. Worth it if you’ve been having head-scratching experiences of late.

2) Refuse to think ill of others. – Whenever possible, keep your thoughts away from negativity. Especially in judging the motives and character of people you work with. When we operate out of a determination to think well of them, communication can have greater clarity. For sure from our side. It’s when we allow our thoughts to go negative that we conversations can go murky.

Photo Credit: Entrepreneur

Now, there are limits to this, and I get that. In fact, we are wise to isolate out those who have shown themselves untrustworthy. Dr. Henry Cloud wrote the book  Necessary Endings which has an excellent chapter on the three kinds of people in the world – wise, foolish, and evil. Cloud explores, with little sentimentality, how we are to act in the company of each. I’m sure we all hope to find ourselves among the wise.

Necessary Endings: The Employees, Businesses, and Relationships That All of Us Have to Give Up in Order to Move Forward – Henry Cloud

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

3) Recognize that “gaslighting” can be operating in a meeting and no, you’re not going crazy. Recognize it; don’t take it personally; deflect; confront the perpetrator. Move on if possible.

Gaslighting is a form of manipulation that seeks to sow seeds of doubt in a targeted individual or members of a group, hoping to make targets question their own memory, perception, and sanity. Using persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying, it attempts to destabilize the target and delegitimize the target’s belief.” – Wikipedia

“Gaslighting is a colloquial term that describes a type of psychological abuse in which the abuser denies the victim’s reality, causing him/her to question him/herself, his/her memory, or his/her perceptions. The term gaslighting is also sometimes used to apply to the use of inflammatory behavior or language that provokes someone to behave in an uncharacteristic way.” – TheGoodTherapy.org Team

Photo Credit: Style Whack

I wrote about gaslighting before here.

Gaslighting for BeginnersGaslighting Techniques to Use at Work – Sarah Cooper

Gaslighting often happens in relationships when one person uses a sometimes subtle manipulation to cause the other to think maybe she/he misunderstood or over-reacted to something the former did or said. In this unhealthy situation repeated over the course of the relationship, the one being “gaslighted” can begin to distrust her/himself and even go as far as to question their sanity.

I have had this experience and it is highly unsettling.

Ironically, gaslighting can be done by a “good guy” who has developed some habits he uses without mean intent. It can happen to all of us…I’m thinking.

Read psychologist Stephanie Sarkis‘ two pieces below. Very helpful.

11 Signs of Gaslighting in a Relationship

Are Gaslighters Aware of What They Do? – Stephanie Sarkis

Photo Credit: Wikipedia

You’re Not Going Crazy: 15 Signs You’re a Victim of Gaslighting – Aletheia Luna

The Culture of Any Organization Is Shaped…By the Worst Behavior the Leader Is Willing to Tolerate – Rich Lochner

Gaslighting in the Workplace Part 1 – What Is Gaslighting and Who Does It? – Heather Bowden

Gaslighting in the Workplace Part 2 – Oh no! I’m a Gaslighter! – Heather Bowden

If you got to the end of all this, here is quite a different piece on “What just happened?” – when your boss may be impressed with you without showing it. Enjoy!

12 Signs Your Boss Is Impressed with You, Even Thought It Doesn’t Seem Like It – Aine Cain