- Mistakes and misses
- Praise-worthy effort
- What's working
- Opportunities for improvement
- Collective discernment/analysis
- Results-oriented thinking and behavior
The coaching relationship is a dynamic phenomenon between the coach and the coachee. The coach generally possesses knowledge, skills, experience, and perspective that the coachee does not yet have (and needs or wants).
The coach-coachee relationship is just that -- a relationship. The coaching process works best only when that relationship exists on a presumption of volunteered participation and grounded in TRUST. If either the coach or the coachee are externally "compelled" to participate, that trust suffers erosive effects from the get-go. The prospect for optimal outcomes are diminished from the start.
As leaders, we often find ourselves wearing both hats -- coach and coachee -- at the same time. Thus the coached-coaching experience is not hierarchical, but rather, multi-directional. There is much we can learn from that interpersonal schema, if we are paying attention.
Perhaps we should spend the preponderance of our time on becoming relationship experts.
I recently read Love Works: Seven Timeless Principles for Effective Leaders by Joel Manby (2020).In this book Manby frames his experiences as a chief executive officer of several large organizations against the pillars of love as articulated in 1 Corinthians 13 of the Bible.
My top takeaways:
· Think first and always of LOVE as a action verb – not as a noun or an emotion.
· Reframe personal and organizational goals as either BE goals or DO goals – with the BE goals being preeminent.
· BE goals are timeless; DO goals are context dependent and malleable.
· Protecting the dignity of others should be paramount.
· Praise lacking specifics is perceived as bogus and hollow, killing our credibility.
· Making others consistently feel bad does NOT make them better.
· Customer experience is the direct downstream effect of employee enthusiasm – starting with leadership.
· Effective and Efficient are goals that can work against one another, or they complement each other in symbiotic conjunction, depending on the culture we choose to shape.
· The gift of time – the leader’s time – is a powerful incentivizer.
· Insisting on getting at the truth keeps the best people and creates the best decisions.
· Forgiving heals both the giver and the recipient.
· The seven timeless principles of LOVE that can be leveraged in leadership: PATIENCE, KINDNESS, TRUSTING, UNSELFISH, TRUTHFUL, FORGIVING, and DEDICATED.
My favorite quotes:
“Profits are a product of doing the right thing—over and over again.” (p. 31)
“Do or do not. There is no try. —YODA In Star Wars.” (p. 35)
"The truth is this: interrupting is a sign of distrust.” (p. 83)
“Listening well is critical because it demonstrates trust and builds a team’s sense of camaraderie and cohesion.” (p. 84)
“Let others make the decisions for which they are responsible.” (p. 95)
“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy. —MARTIN LUTHER KING JR. ” (p. 196)
“And the more we focus on do goals, the greater the risk that we will betray our be goals.” (p. 215)
Manby makes a compelling case that effective leaders – the best leaders – not only can lead from a standpoint of LOVE, they should do so.
This book is a worthy read.
Disclaimer: It is generally easier to ignore or hide from the truth, than to seek it.
Leaders need to know the truth (whether they acknowledge it or not). Only when we know the truth can sound decisions be made and solid directions be charted.
How can leaders encourage and ensure truth speaking?
I recently read What Happened to You? Conversations on Trauma, Resilience, and Healing by Bruce Perry and Oprah Winfrey (2021).
This book was extremely enlightening for me, taking me in new “directions” around topics of interest to me.
My top takeaways:
· Think in terms of “What happened to you?” as opposed to “What’s wrong with you?”
· Rhythm shapes us, from the womb through the final moments of our lives.
· Humans are emotionally contagious; we sense the emotional state of others.
· Love is the ultimate relational experience.
· Every aspect of our “self” is shaped by early developmental experiences.
· Not just “fight or flight,” but Flock, Freeze, Flight, or Fight.
· Relational health = our connectedness to family, community, and culture.
· Every cell in our body has the same genes, but not the same genes “turned on.”
· Trauma affects disconnection, which negatively impacts every system in our body.
· Neglect is as toxic as trauma.
· The major predator of humans has always been other humans.
· Disconnection is a disease.
· Forgive – first ourselves, then others.
My favorite quotes:
“All life is rhythmic. The rhythms of the natural world are embedded in our biological systems.” (p.49)
“Relational glue keeps our species alive, and love is relational superglue.” (p.77)
“Dr. Perry: Love, given and felt, is dependent upon the ability to be present, attentive, attuned, and responsive to another human being... And this ability is based upon what happened to you, primarily as a young child.” (p.81)
“Trying to reason with someone before they are regulated won’t work and indeed will only increase frustration (dysregulation) for both of you.” (p.142)
“It takes a long time to change people—and even longer to change systems.” (p.217)
“We know that a dysregulated adult cannot regulate a dysregulated child. An exhausted, frustrated, dysregulated adult can’t regulate anybody.” (p.284)
This book is a keeper. Made me think much more deeply about the power of relationships and connection.
Very thankful that CD recommended to me.
Thoroughbred horses are built to RUN, fast and for a long time. Don't hitch 'em to a wagon.
Quarter Horses are quick and agile. They change directions on a dime and have keen anticipation skills. Don't try to race them against a Thoroughbred.
Draft horses are designed to move heavy loads and carry a lot of dead weight. Don't task them to do 10 things fast and well.
Ponies are disposed to behave like pets; gentle, steady, obedient, and safe (usually). Don't expect them to drag a plough through hard ground.
Prancers are show horses; pretty, impressive, performance-oriented. Don't expect one to win the Kentucky Derby.
Most all kinds of horses are smarter than we tend to give them credit. Kind of sneaky smart.
Leaders of organizations don't typically have to match horses with their dispositions for needed work outcomes. Instead............................we work with people.
Note to self: People are sorta like horses (except there are more "kinds" of people than horses).
Got some learnin' to do.
We are apportioned only so many days on Earth. For some, that window of life is tragically short. For others, it can approach 100 years.
Regardless of how long we live, there is a finite amount of Life Energy allocated to us each day.
We get to determine how to spend that Life Energy.
Below are some continua we can use to help frame those choices:
Harmony <<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>>> Disharmony
Calm <<<<<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>>>>> Instigate
Love <<<<<<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>>>>>>> Hate
Service <<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>>>> Selfishness
Contribute <<<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>> Consume
Learn <<<<<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>>>>>> Ignore
Positivity <<<<<<<<<<<< >>>>>>>>> Negativity
We don't control the amount of Life Energy, just the way we choose to direct it.
Note to self: Modifications can be made minute-by-minute.
Few things in life are more gratifying than serving others. It lifts both the provider and the receiver. This is especially true when serving those who are marginalized or compromised, having a compelling need they cannot meet on their own.
Who are some worthy models of service from whom we might learn? Jesus, Mandela, Mother Theresa, ML King, etc. Or....................just look around. I'd bet good money you can find someone around you who is lovingly serving at this very moment.
Those in need of our service are plentiful.
We can start whenever we get ready. No credentials or training required.
A lifetime is too short to learn the craft of leadership.
As we grow ourselves into more impactful Servant Leaders, there exists some powerful accelerants to the process:
For your consideration:
Cynicism = Don't know + don't care + not believing it
Curiosity = Don't know much about it + interested in knowing more
Skepticism = Know a little already + convince me + gonna ask critical questions
Skeptiosity = Curiosity + Skepticism
Cynicism blocks learning.
Curiosity invites learning.
Skepticism calibrates learning.
Skeptiosity accelerates learning.
Wishing is insufficient.
Intentions, while more impactful than wishes, are also woefully ineffectual.
Personal or communal or organizational change requires a commitment to habitual alterations of behavior. These behavioral changes in habit will begin to subsequently shape changes in ways of thinking. They gain momentum and "sticking" power as the desired results begin to emerge.
For those of us in leadership positions, not only must we MODEL the desired habits. We should also persistently NOTICE when others embrace those habits. And, if we want those habits to gain traction, we are compelled to consistently and specifically ACKNOWLEDGE -- both in private and in public -- those habitual enactments.
Turning intentions into habits is tough work >>> MODEL + NOTICE + ACKNOWLEDGE.
Leadership ain't for sissies.
In organizational and personal life, we often do and say things that are inconsistent with our desired purposes. Too often, we engage in actions that actually run contrary to our purposes. When we participate in actions that are inconsistent with our purposes we are guilty of mindless frittering. Those are activities are, and are perceived by others to be, meaningless.
We see it all the time. Protocols, processes, and procedures are put in place that feed.....................................themselves.....................................NOT the grander and fundamental PURPOSE for which we and/or our organization exists.
As leaders, how can we mitigate PurposeLESS behavior?
Consider this recipe for PurposeFULL behavior:
1) Clarify the PURPOSE - know, codify, and relentlessly articulate the timeless values we honor and which we intend to exemplify. Make them a consistent mantra.
2) Assess Alignment - daily and persistently evaluate our actions/words/thoughts against their integrity to that Purpose. Habituate this practice, internally and communally.
3) Adaptations - minimize and eliminate the "stuff" that is just "stuff" -- that which does not directly contribute to pursuit of our Purpose. Intentionally replace those excisions with PurposeFULL activity/behavior.
Meetings are a necessary part of organizational work.
Unnecessary meetings are one of the most non-productive uses of time in organizational work. If not needed, don't call 'em.
Poorly deployed meetings are one of the most frequent time and energy sucks of organizational work.
Some thoughts about making meetings more productive:
Planning is tricky work. I learned much about the process as a young athletic coach. As the years passed and my job assignments changed, I learned more and more about effective planning practices.
Here are some of my big takeaways regarding Effective Planning:
There's this thing called the 80-20 Principle (aka Pareto Principle). The premise is that 80% of the outcomes are generated by 20% of the inputs (or inputers).
Another way to think of it is that 20% of our thoughts/mindsets and actions/behaviors drive 80% of our results.
A living and work recipe worth considering:
Change happens. That's a given.
Yet change has variability in its timelines.
Conditions Change. Conditions can change very quickly. Weather conditions can change in a heartbeat. A protest can turn into a riot almost instantly.
People Change. People usually change more slowly. Sometimes a person will change after a traumatic experience, or as result of illness, or in the wake of a religious experience, or concluding that they've been very wrong.
Systems Change. The slowest change clock of all is that which alters a system. This is the stuff of culture. The IRS won't change very quickly, if at all. An ideology (political or religious) will only budge at a snails pace. Dogma is an extremely slow learner.
For those of us interested in a better tomorrow, we'll have to commit long-term to tinkering with System Change, because People Change and Conditions Change almost always occur downstream.
In all areas where humans are involved, it's the habits that matter.
Pack a lunch...
Whether consciously or not, we are all in the FutureBuilding business.....right now.....every moment.....every day.
Most of us (hermits excepted -- well, maybe even them) are also directly or indirectly shaping the future of our families, our friends, and our colleagues. For those of us in leadership roles, we are also directly involved in shaping the future of the stakeholders in our organizations, both internal and external.
It makes good sense that we would engage in this FutureBuilding with extreme intentionality.
Some useful questions for us to consider in this FutureBuilding process:
It always starts with me, but it is always about US.
It only happens one step at a time.
Now is the time to start.
I recently read Story Driven: You Don’t Need to Compete When You Know Who You Are by Bernadette Jiwa (2018).
In this book, BJ speaks to the importance of us as individuals and as organizations to not only “know ourselves” but that that knowing is absolutely essential to our being able to connect with others (whether personally, collegially or transactionally).
My top takeaways:
· Our best service posture is achieved when we learn to be responsive rather than reactive.
· Having a clear sense of purpose and identity is essential to being able to have impact (aka mattering).
· The best organizations (and people) don’t matter by winning, they win by mattering.
· Losing is the result of what we sacrifice in order to win.
· The use of powerful reflective questions is the best starting point for understanding our Story.
· The Story-Driven progression:
o 1. BACKSTORY: Our journey to now.
o 2. VALUES: Our guiding beliefs.
o 3. PURPOSE: Our reason to exist.
o 4. VISION: Our aspiration for the future.
o 5. STRATEGY: The alignment of opportunities, plans and behavior: how we will deliver on our purpose and work towards our aspiration, while staying true to our values.
My favorite quotes:
‘The greatest way to live with honour in this world is to be what we pretend to be.’ —Socrates (p. 1)
‘The most powerful person in the world is the storyteller. —Steve Jobs (p. 3)
“Clarity of intention is where your story starts.” (p. 42)
“Mahatma Ghandi said, ‘Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.’” (p. 53)
Our days are consumed with measuring up in all kinds of arbitrary, superficial, ungrounded ways. What would happen if we spent as much time reflecting— wondering about and working on the inside, nurturing the things that make us who we are? (p. 145)
This book is going on my list of recommended readings. Nuff said!
One of my favorite bosses (and mentors) provided to me MUCH loving guidance as he and I were trying to polish up my leadership skills over the years. (I am eternally thankful for his patient and loving support -- still).
When I would get "on fire" about some particular issue, or when we would be dealing with one of those frequent and inevitable "messes" that come through the leader's door on a daily basis, he would remind me consistently to gauge the significance of the issue before reacting.
More specifically, my mentor's consistent coaching (and modeling) was along these lines:
What is the eternal significance of this current "emergency"?
TRUST is the currency of leadership.
If those with whom we work TRUST us, then there's a decent chance they'll follow our lead. If they don't trust us.....................not a prayer.
What are some things we can do to diminish, or interdict, the trust others might be willing to place in us?
We need bank all the TRUST capital we can get.
If we only had ONE MINUTE with those whom we encounter, how would we use it?
Would we view the encounter as a precious and sacred opportunity, or squander it as if there would be millions more to come?
What few and precious words would we utter?
Where would we focus our eyes?
What would we listen for?
Would we listen at all?
How would we stand/sit?
What will we and the Other learn?
How attuned would the Other perceive us to be?
Our daily encounters with Others are not coincidental. They are Providential appointments.
If we intend to change the world for the better, to make better futures, those precious minutes matter. Why? Because we can't change the world, or make better futures, by ourselves. We need an army of like-minded changers.
One Minute matters. Quite a lot, actually.
Uncertainty is a fact of life. We all experience it, and always will.
Uncertainty almost always creates angst in our being. Depending on the element(s) generating the uncertainty, our discomfort can be cognitive, emotional, physical, or spiritual........most likely, some combination of those dimensions.
While none of us are exempt from uncertainty, we can learn much from those who gracefully navigate it.
What do we observe in those who respond to uncertainty in the healthiest ways?
I recently read Radical Inclusion: What the Post-9/11 World Should Have Taught Us About Leadership by Martin Dempsey and Ori Brafman (2017).
In this book, the warrior (former Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Dempsey) and the academic (Dr. Brafman) dissect the impact of global interconnectedness on the social arrangements and behavior of 21st humanity. In particular, they focus on how leaders can best make sense of this social milieu and use it to good ends.
My top takeaways:
· Being part of a community is increasingly divorced from geographic proximity. It’s virtual now.
· Wise leaders listen, amplify, and include.
· Retention of power should take a back seat to a focus on efficacious outcomes.
· MD/OB’s six key principles for effective leadership:
1. Belonging isn’t optional: give them memories.
2. Connect effort with meaning: make it matter.
3. Think about what you’re not thinking about: learn to imagine.
4. Prevent decision paralysis: develop a bias for action.
5. Collaborate at every level of the organization: co-create context.
6. Expand the circle: relinquish control to build and sustain power.
My favorite quotes:
“More specifically, the world is moving from debates about facts to battles of narratives.” (p. 22) “Facts are by definition grounded in logic. Narratives, however, are based on emotions.” (p. 22) “A narrative battle is won by drowning out the counter message.” (p. 23)
“Inclusion isn’t necessarily the opposite of exclusion. Real inclusion isn’t about letting just anyone in; it’s about understanding the pillars of participation, personalization, and purpose.” (p. 42)
“The most important responsibility of leaders—no matter how busy they are and how many other priorities demand their attention—is to make their people feel like they belong.” (p. 81)
“A bias for action is the recognition that, in our complex world, learning is active and iterative. We act, we assess, and we act again. A bias for action is the recognition that facts are vulnerable and that speed matters in the era of digital echoes.” (p. 108)
“Our challenge as leaders is to empower the entire organization to take part in understanding the problem the team is facing and to encourage individuals at all levels to suggest potential ways to reach our desired outcomes.” (p. 123)
This book would make an excellent team study. It could provide the basis for some very rich and deep conversations about moving an organization well and rightly into an ambiguous future.
Most of us were exposed to the concept of sweeping generalizations while we were in school. We learned to be alert for and wary of phrases such as...
All Men are ___ ... or ... All Asians practice ___ ... or ... All Marines will ___.
We were taught that use of such language and the mindset underneath it are an expression of prejudice, or outright bigotry. At the very least, it is an attempt to prejudice the minds of others.
In recent years I have become increasingly aware of the prejudicial impact of labels. As soon as we place a label on an INDIVIDUAL we automatically cause inferential assumptions about that person. Those implied assumptions occur in our own minds, and they emerge in the minds of our audiences (whomever they may be).
For instance... take the label "Baptists." I know a lot of Baptists, but very few of them live tightly according to codified Baptist doctrine. Yet, when I use that label my mind instantly lumps them into a pattern of behavior/thought that is likely not accurate.
For your consideration, here are some other labels that generate auto-assumptions in our minds: Democrats, Conservatives, Southerners, Women, Rednecks, Educated...
The labels we use automatically generate assumptions; those inferences are often unfair and frequently incorrect.
Mostly, we all think and behave as INDIVIDUALS.
I'm trying mightily to view others, to act, to think, and to speak accordingly. It's harder than you think.
Getting better. Every day. On purpose. That could be a tattoo for the continuous improvement mindset.
Why would betterness not be a goal for each of us, both in our personal lives and in the organizations we belong to?
Betterness is a discipline, the direct result of deliberate habit formation.
What do some of those powerful habits of betterness look like?
Of all the communications tools we have in our tool chest, listening is the most powerful.
Being a better listener is a craft (craft = art + science). And, sharpening our listening skills is a daily discipline.
Some things to consider if we wanna be better listeners...
Reflecting on our personal and collective history can serve as a powerful stimulant for the future we choose to make.
We have been shaped by people, by experiences, and by forces. Those shaping mechanisms generate within us purpose (whether we define it or not). As we manifest that purpose the stories of our lives, businesses, communities begin to unfold.
Those shapers are:
We have the editing rights. Deliberate consideration of those shaping elements of our story most certainly makes us better "writers" of the next sentence, paragraph, chapter...
Note to self: As I edit and write my own future, I am most certainly shaping those of others.
One of the powerful conclusions we glean from research in the field of psychology is that of reciprocation. It is in our nature to mirror/reflect behavior others send in our direction. It's as if we feel some powerful pull to respond in like kind.
As servant leaders we are wise to better understand the concept of reciprocation and to employ it in the dispatch of our work.
Some possibilities for us to consider:
Some people might describe that list as "norms." Maybe so, but norms are worthless unless leadership persistently models them.
Worth noting is that reciprocation runs both ways. Whatever devaluing. self-serving, dishonoring, or deceitful behaviors we exhibit will most certainly be boomeranged back at us -- usually in spades.
Organizations are made up of people. Always.
The problems organizations experience are generated by people, often by people within the organization (but sometimes by people external to the organization). One way or the other, it's people who are somehow, someway the genesis of the problems experienced.
How can servant leaders effectively deal with those behavior problems (aka people problems)?
Consider the following strategies: