Leadership & Life Journal

Learn Something New Every Day

Your organization may have not officially restructured or furloughed any employees, but the way people work is restructured forever. Every manager I talk with is consumed with the safety and mechanics of moving people back into their next routine, and rightly so. People are trying to find a new rhythm while the ground is shifting under their feet. They feel their stress level going up and most don’t know how to deal with it.

Unfortunately, there are still a few  managers out there who are oblivious to the emotional side of all this workplace reshaping. They continue their micromanagement and subtle manipulation to grind away at “the task” and feel in control. 

Fortunately, the better leaders out there realize this emotional side of transition is real.  But they teeter between attention to physical safety concerns and psychological safety needs, struggling to balance both as they guide people forward.  

One Thing To Do Now

Actively supporting personal and professional development will help people become more productive ( see AMA study). Encourage and allow time for people to learn something new every day, as you model the same. Today may not be the time to engaged a full-blown training and development initiative, but my experience has been that people stop worrying when they are intensely involved in learning something new.  

Journal Entry: Since it seems like everyone is “Zoomed Out,” meaning they have done way too many virtual meetings, why not find a small hard or softcover book and ask people to read ten pages a day. Encourage them to share one thing they learned each day that helped them in their leadership and life.

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.”― Mahatma Gandhi

“The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.”― Dr. Seuss, I Can Read With My Eyes Shut!

“Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” ~ Henry Ford

“The mind, once stretched by a new idea, never returns to its original dimensions.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

Next Normal and a 40-Day Plan

Why 40 days?

Although there is not scientific data to support the significance of 40 days, history, specifically Biblical history, certainly points toward a pattern of effectiveness to this time-frame. Theologians in general  agree that the period of 40 days signifies a period of testing, trial or judgment. The Israelites walked through the desert for 40 years. The tower of Babel was built in 40 days, Jesus Christ fasted for 40 days, and He ascended to heaven after 40 days.

The Latin root of the word quarantine is 40. Which is even more interesting since the U.S. effort to control the COVID-19 outbreak by instituting a quarantine/sheltering-in-place began on March 25. Now there is talk of backing off this quarantine until the first week of May . That’s real close to 40 days.

As of today, 28 days have passed since that announcement, the change event, that altered everyone’s life. All of us either observed, read about and personally experienced the natural phases of emotions shown in the illustration taken from my next book Roll Up Your Sleeves.

I don’t know where you are on the wave of transition moods and feelings shown here, but most people are ready for a new beginning and need a plan. What I do know is that having a timeline helps people plan. So, if you assume first that 40 days is where you need to concentrate your energy and your team’s energy, this one assumption can help you get going and avoid the pitfalls of inaction or snags of overreaction.

Next Normal Culture
A challenging truth is that a new beginning births another change  – not a new normal, but a next normal. Which means we will experience a new period of transition as we move forward into a world that is a bit more familiar but not the same. The great news is that change comes bearing gifts, but like the gift of the good stuff inside a pecan, walnut or chestnut – it takes effort to get to it.

Shelling a nut requires a brute force or a sturdy tool to crush with. Now don’t take this as a recommendation to use brute force to get people moving into their next normal, although a few of them who are a little nutty might respond , and sadly a few nutty managers will do just this. There is a better way, a  40-Day next normal strategy. Most teams already have a next steps plan for finance and operations , which is vital, and if you don’t have that, stop and do that first. But I’m talking about your next normal culture strategy and plan.

Assume Some Things    
Having stated assumptions is the foundation for effective strategy and plan execution. Assumptions are defined as statements of what the planning group assumes will happen and what they believe about their environment. Not having a discussion and agreeing on your assumptions will result in continuous communication breakdown, barriers and recurring issues. Which will stall your plan. Clarifying your assumptions is the foundation, the philosophical underpinnings of any plan.

Some Steps to Consider
I recommend that you call a team meeting. Begin the meeting by agreeing on your assumed timeline. I suggested 40 days but choose a definite realistic time-frame That should have be easy. Now that you’ve cracked the shell, it is time to go deeper and get to the meaty stuff that really matters, by clarifying your team’s culture assumptions in three areas shown in the box below.

Here is a 3-step process to consider as a model to help you get started:

Step 1– Display the three inquiry statements, shown in the box below, for all on the team to see. You may want to distribute this before you hold your meeting to give people time to think.

Step 2– When you meet, have each person select a number from 1 to 5 that represents what they believe on each of the three continuum lines. (Example: On item A – selecting a I or 2 means “I really believe money and pushing is the best way to motivate” and choosing a 4 or 5  means “I know that visions and listening is what works best.”)

Step 3- Starting with A, ask each person to explain why they chose their number, discuss differences and similarities and come to consensus on your collective belief for A. Do the same for B and C.

Follow-up every 10 days. When you change an assumption, your behaviors and actions will change.

Note: The items below are listed in priority order. If you can’t come to consensus on Statement A, there is no need to discuss the other two. Just hold on and be prepared for the worst.

  1. People are motivated to do their best through:   

Money, Pushing and Telling  1 2 3 4 5   Inspiration / Vision / Listening

  1. The best approach to help people move forward is to:

Allow people to get back to normal on their own 1 2 3 4 5  Lead people into our next normal – (describe what back to normal and/or your next normal looks like, feels like, and sounds like)

  1. The most effective way to lead is to act and speak like:

People should suck it up & move on  1 2 3 4 5  People experience emotions & need support (describe ways you can facilitate your assumption).

Journal Entry: If you chose 5’s and 6’s on the scales above, the questions below are worth considering when you talk and meet with the people who are moving into the next normal in their leadership and life.


Past >

  • How do you feel about what happened?
  • What do you think about the way this was handled?
  • How could we have handled this better?

Present >

  • What has been positive about this for you? What has been painful?
  • What would you like to see happen now?

Future>

  • What ideas have you thought about that might help others on your team?
  • What would be a good next step to take to improve our team/department?

Roll Up Your Sleeves – Living & Leading in a World of Constant Change, Part 10

Well this is it! #10 or 10 in this special series about the observation of four young men who take another life altering journey together in my forthcoming book Roll Up Your Sleeves.

Over the past 2 weeks we have covered our One Unshakeable Truth plus these 9 concepts.
One Unshakeable Truth – Everyone has unseen battles they are fighting. Be kind.
#1 Change is not the same as transition.
#2 Personality matters.
#3 Role clarity counts.
#4 Principles set the pace.
#5 Purpose is power.
#6 Process matters.
#7 Endings let us begin again.
#8 Seasons come and go.
#9 Self-counseling doesn’t work.

Today is #10 Pray first: Before life gives you more than you can stand, kneel. The more you kneel along the way, the easier you’ll stand the test today.

Everyone gets tested by something. For some of us it’s dealing with technology end equipment. For others it’s having to fool with finances or budgets. Dealing with politics, both inside and outside of work, can push some people over the edge. Many of us have a challenge with that “other generation” – whoever they are and whatever they’re thinking. The list is endless. During times of transition, the things that test us can elicit a response we do regret later. When change hits, you may have noticed feeling more anxious or worried, reacting to little things that didn’t bother you before. If you’re like most of us, you wish you could do something to better manage those behaviors that did not work.

“To whom should I go for some self-help.” – Ashley Brilliant

I have found that the most ineffective way to change your behavior is to try to change your behavior. By this I mean, attempting to force yourself or persuade yourself into changing how you think or what you do. Most self-help books recommend this type of direct approach through using a step-by step technique or applying a clever psychological scheme or the classic line from the well-intended but emotionally unaware manager – “just don’t do that.”

These external motivation techniques might work short term, but behavioral changes that really stick only happen when a person looks inside, reframes their personal context and starts to see themselves playing a role in a bigger spiritual (not religious) purpose. Even when this type of spiritual transformation happens, it still takes personal effort to stay there and to grow into it. In my experience there are three things that help new behavior stick : monitor your actions by keeping a written record, make a commitment to someone who will support you and pray first more often.

Research
Researchers from Baylor University looked at the data of 1,714 volunteers who participated in the most recent Baylor Religion Survey (1). They found that people who pray to a loving and protective God are less likely to experience anxiety-related disorders — worry, fear, self-consciousness, social anxiety and obsessive-compulsive behavior — compared to people who pray but don’t really expect to receive any comfort or protection from God. The findings add to the growing body of research confirming a connection between a person’s perceived relationship with God and mental and physical health. In fact, a recent study by Oregon State University found that religion and spirituality result in two distinct but complementary health benefits. Religion (religious affiliation and service attendance) is linked to better health habits, including less smoking and alcohol consumption, while spirituality (prayer, meditation) helps regulate emotions.

Application
When I’m working with a client, after taking time to be totally prepared with my materials and notes, I say this prayer, which was offered to me by my friend and colleague Cliff Eslinger – The Consultants Prayer, “God get me out of the way so these smart people can get what they need from You today.” We are both amazed at the outcome when God honors our request and He usually does.

Almost every morning I begin my day in my big brown recliner. I sit there, read my Bible, especially The Proverbs, and say a prayer. There is a small lamp table beside my La-Z-Boy. Under the glass that covers the top of the table there are a few things I’ve gathered over the years: A printed copy of Psalm 16:1-11 and Philippians 4:7: “Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving present your requests to God and the peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your heart and mind in Christ Jesus.” Below that scripture verse I wrote this: “Problems can either be mine or God’s – they can’t be both.” I try to take a look at those every day.

I’m sharing all today not to call myself up as an example or to impress you, because anyone who knows me knows I all too often lose my temper especially with technology, can quickly judge people who in my opinion “don’t get it” and leave the ones I love feeling ignored or discounted with my silence and the list goes on – just ask my wife. My reason for my being so transparent is to let you know if I can pray first almost every day, anybody can.

Journal entry: I also hope that if you start your day in a different way – I don’t mean jogging instead of sitting in a lounger – that this email might intrigue you to give “pray first” a try and see if you might find the more you kneel along the way, the easier you’ll stand your tests today in your leadership and life.

Living one day at a time,
Enjoying one moment at a time,
Accepting hardship as the pathway to peace.
Taking, as He did, this sinful world as it is,
Not as I would have it.
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His will.
That I may be reasonably happy in this life,
And supremely happy with Him forever in the next.
Amen.
~ Reinhold Neibuhr

Roll Up Your Sleeves – Living & Leading in a World of Constant Change, Part 9

So far we have covered One Unshakeable Truth plus these 8 concepts, which are found in my forthcoming book Roll Up Your Sleeves:

One Unshakable Truth – Everyone has unseen battles they are fighting. Be kind.

#1 Change is not the same as transition.

#2 Personality matters.

#3 Role clarity counts.

#4 Principles set the pace.

#5 Purpose is power.

#6 Process matters.

#7 Endings let us begin again.

#8 Seasons come and go.

Today I get personal with a few thoughts about Observation #9 Self-counseling doesn’t work. – When change hits, we become our worst counselor. Instead of turning inward, share your story with a trusted friend who will listen and not try to fix you. If you go it alone, you will go too fast and crash. If you go together, you will go farther and heal.

“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.” The Book of Ecclesiastes 4:9-10 by one of King Solomon’s scribes

In 1814, Henry Kett, an eminent clergyman, academic and writer, said, “I hesitate not to pronounce, that every man who is his own lawyer, has a fool for a client.”

Despite Kett or Solomon’s message of the power of personal inter-dependence, which has been repeated and reflected on for centuries, the fools of the world have not been derailed off their “me, myself and I” track of life. Sadly, this Rambo-ish, one-man show mindset is still held in high regard by many people in the US. It is hailed in our movies, modeled by some top politicians, held on to by a few lesser-regarded businessmen and serves as the philosophical underpinning of tyrants who view humans as soulless and physical matter to be disposed of when change disrupts their plans.

As you know, a stand-alone persona can be efficient in a short-term ox-in-the-ditch predicament or sudden crisis and for long-term dictatorship as well. But this self-absorbed, self-reliant stance cannot be sustained long in place that values the sanctity of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. If you believe in these Creator-endowed values, when change happens your instinct will be to invest in getting people through the emotional phases of transition, rather than eliminate them. You will see people as struggling souls and realize that your leadership strength comes from leaning on others to inspire a shared dream of a fresh beginning and better life for everyone.

In 1967 Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston sang the hit song “Takes Two”
One can have a dream, baby
Two can make that dream so real
One can talk about bein’ in love
Two can say how it really feels
One can wish upon a star
Two can make that wish come true, yeah
One can stand alone in the dark
Two can make the light shine through
It takes two, baby, it takes two, baby
Me and you, just take two
It takes two, baby, it takes two, baby
To make a dream come true, just take two

Power of 2
Over the past 25 years I have noticed a trend in business structure which no one talked about. It is that most healthy organizations are directed by two people – a primary and secondary. Natural law has revealed this truth in healthy families, but this duo-at-the-top principle seems as reliable and trustworthy as the rule of three is for having the optimal execution structure. No matter what the official organizational chart says, successful companies officially or unofficially have a top leader, with one other person beside her or him. They together share primary influence over the future of the enterprise. The same pattern of two holds true for departments, divisions or teams. The secondary person in the pair can be someone within the organization, an outside confidant or even a family member. I’m not saying that these two don’t consult with, listen and gain perspective from others, but when it comes to making the final call – everyone may have a voice, but only two have a final vote.

Now there is data to back up my hunch. The researchers at Gallup have published a report and now a book, Power of 2. Their detailed research is illustrated by stories of famous partnerships. Examples include pairs such as Tenzing and Hillary who were the first to scale Mt. Everest; Malone and Stockton who were the key to each other’s success on the basketball court; Eisner who was never as effective at Disney without Wells. The book offers eight characteristics of these powerful partnership, which are: complementary strengths, a common mission, fairness, trust, acceptance, forgiveness, communicating, and unselfishness. The book reminds that what Solomon said thousands of years ago was right on target- many of the greatest accomplishments can be reached only by two people working together.

Journal Entry: Do you have someone beside you who sincerely applies their strengths to compliment yours, shares a common ideal, is fair minded, trustworthy, accepts you unconditionally, forgives and forgets, communicates with ease and is committed to service above self? If you have a such a comrade, chum or companion, count yourself blessed by God and don’t be surprised when together you turn out to make a big difference in the well-being of people you serve with your leadership and life.

“A man who has friends must himself be friendly, But there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” The Bible book of Proverbs 18:24

Roll Up Your Sleeves – Living & Leading in a World of Constant Change, Part 8

So far we have covered One Unshakeable Truth plus these 7 concepts, which are found in my forthcoming book Roll Up Your Sleeves:

One Unshakable Truth – Everyone has unseen battles they are fighting. Be kind.

#1 Change is not the same as transition.

#2 Personality matters.

#3 Role clarity counts.

#4 Principles set the pace.

#5 Purpose is power.

#6 Process matters.

#7 Endings let us begin again.

Today is #8 Seasons come and go. Life is a series of transitions in which we decide to either loathe the change or learn to love ourselves more and serve others more. Helping another person get through their struggles is the best way to get through ours.

The Give Factors
A number of years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night thinking about my work. An executive I was coaching was having particular trouble moving his team forward. He said all the right things, had all the right technical knowledge, people seemed to like him, but his team wasn’t achieving key business initiatives. Trying to make sense of that situation, I asked myself what was missing. What was it about this guy that was causing this stalemate with his team to happen?

A key skill of any successful leader is the ability to coach and mentor people. This guy couldn’t coach people. Why not? He had drive and determination. He had read all the “how-to” leadership books and knew the right words. I finally realized he was missing a key, underlying, foundational attribute of all truly successful leaders. He was missing a spirit of generosity.

Robert Hargrove, in Masterful Coaching, explains it this way, “Coaching is a way of being, not just a technique that allows you to help other people achieve success. Generosity of spirit allows you to give people the gift of your presence in any conversation. It motivates you to give authentic feedback that helps someone grow and learn, as well as give praise that affirms that person. People with generosity of spirit give others credit.”

Before I finally fell back to sleep that night, I grabbed a notepad and wrote down eight words: Give Thanks, Give Credit, Give Back, and Give Up. Those were the variations on the concepts behind Hargrove’s generosity of spirit that I’d seen over and over in truly successful people. These traits were definitely lacking in the executive I was working with. It was from that series of events that what I now call “The Give Factors” came into being(1)

Give Thanks … For things you are most grateful for during both good times and bad
Give Credit … To those who play a role in your success, helping you and just being there for you
Give Back … To other people and groups who can never repay you
Give Up … Or let go of something that’s worked in the past to move a new level of success – on purpose

If you were rating yourself on how consistently you displayed these characteristics at work and home, what number would you select for each factor? 1- never 2- sometimes 3- more often than not 4- always

Journal Entry: When leading people through a transition, modeling these four behaviors is vital to gaining the respect needed to get people through their emotional wilderness to a new beginning or shared promised land. You will know you have mastered these traits when you observe the people under your influence making the Give Factors an integral part of their leadership and life.

(1)- The four Give Factors were published and explained in detail in Chapter 2 in my first book Design a Life that Works www.designalifebook.com

Of the things we think, say, and do, we will ask ourselves—
Is it the truth?
Is it fair to all concerned?
Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
Will it be beneficial to all concerned?
– The 4-way Test of Rotary International

“There is a wonderful, mythical law of nature that the three things we crave most in life—happiness, freedom, and peace of mind—are always attained by giving them to someone else.” – Peyton Conway March, soldier

“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you. – The Bible book of Luke 6:38

Roll Up Your Sleeves – Living & Leading in a World of Constant Change, Part 7

From March 23th to 30th we reviewed these 6 concepts:

One Unshakable Truth – Everyone has unseen battles they are fighting. Be kind.

#1 Change is not the same as transition.

#2 Personality matters.

#3 Role clarity counts.

#4 Principles set the pace.

#5 Purpose is power.

#6 Process matters.

Today let’s look at #7 Endings let us begin again. Acknowledge and accept that the past is behind you and that the future in front of you is worth working through, because it creates forward momentum. Momentum is a wonderful thing.

At the beginning of the series, I said that I was not going to refer to any current situations but simply give you principles and let you apply them, as you see fit. But this past week I’ve spoken to many leaders whose organizations have either been shut down completely, are half staffed and are working in virtual teams. I’ve heard from these leaders that they can’t sleep at night, feel a heavy burden all day, struggling with hard decisions that impact the lives and livelihoods of many people. They feel like their teams were pulling apart due to the separation requirements. They want to help their folks , but with everything on their plate, they are having a tough time coming up with effective ways to encourage people to pull together as this crisis lingers on.

An ex-military friend of mine who had served on the front lines once told me, “It’s hard to be creative when bullets are flying around your head.” As I listened these leaders’ internal battles, I was hurting for them, so I prayed for wisdom, pulled out my pen, and created something very practical they could apply immediately to help their people and teams regain their team spirit and sense positive momentum during these trying times.

Following is overview of what I designed. It is team communication strategy and some action ideas. I hope that you can apply something from this in your work and life.

Snapshot: This is a communication strategy and conversation plan designed to enhance unity and support the advancement of a healthy organization during a crisis situation. It Includes 4 team meeting agendas that can be used in either virtual or face-to-face team sessions.

Step1 – Create a Temporary Clarity Vision for the whole organization. This is done by defining a 2-months specific theme, goal or overall objective to rally around. One that will allow every employee to see how they can be a part and make a contribution to it. How do you do this ? Some organizations choose one of their core values or one key initiative or one big inspiring idea as their short-term clarity vision. It is also important to plan to have a celebration when things move back in-house or into your new normal. This celebration is to acknowledge things that were accomplished by teams working together during this temporary clarity vision period.

Step 2- Leadership Approach and Team Meeting Outlines
The Team Leader needs to communicate clearly, intentionally and often. When communicating: Be Empathetic, Be Frequent, Be Simple and Clear, Be Honest, Be Hopeful

Purpose of each meeting: The purpose of these four 15-30 minute weekly meetings is to keep people informed about any upcoming changes, acknowledge challenges both personally and at work, share ideas together and help one another.

Week one:
1. Read the purpose of this meeting: *we are here today to try to stay informed about any upcoming changes, acknowledge challenges both personally and at work, share ideas together and help one another.
2. Check-in question – “Most of our daily routines have changed. In adjusting to this, what one good thing has come from this time for you? What has been hard?” (30 seconds each person)
3. Cover department or division announcements and happenings
4. Share about the temporary clarity theme. Ask people to think about ways they can help.

Week two:
1. Remind the group of the meeting purpose
2. Check-in question – “What has gotten easier since our last meeting? What has gotten more difficult?”
3. Cover department or division announcements and happenings
4. Ask about “Temporary clarity theme” activities: “What positive thing have you thought about, done or heard / saw someone else do?”

Week three:
1. Remind them of the meeting purpose
2. Check-in question – Say “Today let’s talk about remembering that there are things you can control and the things you can’t control. Share a personal example of when you wasted energy on something that was outside your control. Ask if someone has an example as well and why remembering this important during this time?
3. Cover department or division announcements and happenings
4. Ask about “Temporary clarity theme” activities: “What positive thing did you do or see some on do to support our theme ?”

Week four:
1. Remind them of the meeting purpose
2. Check-in question – “Today let’s talk about the bigger picture and the belief that we will get through this. Let me ask you “Can you recall a loss, crisis or big changes you have been through before and survived? Looking back what did you learn from that time?”
3. Cover department or division announcements and happenings
4. Ask about “Temporary clarity theme” activities: “What are your ideas of ways we can celebrate our accomplishments related to ‘our temporary theme’ when we get back to working onsite?”
• If this goes on past the Week four, just go back to the Week one and follow they same series.

Most organizations already have regular team check-in meetings focused on day to day issues and challenges. So, if you apply this process it needs to be adjusted to fit your culture, and it should be to complement, not as a replacement for, a current meeting structure and routines.

Journal Entry: This process was designed for use in an organization, yet you’ve probably realized it could be easily adapted with your family, your small group or an official support group. Give it a try. I hope this will be an encouragement and create some momentum for the people in your leadership in life.

“A vision without a task is but a dream. A task without a vision is drudgery. A vision and a task is the hope of the world.Inscription on a church wall in Sussex England 1730

Roll Up Your Sleeves – Living & Leading in a World of Constant Change, Part ?

Observation Unnumbered : A Little Slack

Have you found yourself making more mistakes over the last few days? Have you over-committed on some projects – feeling that you can get more done since you’re not having to drive and show up at work all day every day? Have you found yourself pushing others, and yourself, to do more and setting unrealistic expectations? Are you realizing that you are sometimes not being so kind to them, or to yourself, when those ever expanding, often shorter, timeline expectations don’t get done perfectly?

I have.

Did you read yesterday’s observation # 6, or tried to read it and gave up because of the multiple errors and instead clicked off the screen halfway through?

I did.

Since I have written this book about leading and living in a world of constant change, plus consulting about it with clients and writing this 10-part series about how to get through a transition, you might think I would have mastered the skills of managing my emotions, been tuned in to the impact of change on me personally and learned not to overload myself.

I have not.

So, I’m going to swallow my authorship pride and to take my own counsel. I will now be kind to myself and speak truth to me. That being said, I have adjusted my commitment to producing 10 articles, 10 days in a row – which was insane. I’m using the rest of this week to take a breath, catch up and explore a new way to get set up to do things better.

Next Monday, April 6, I will produce a rewrite of number observation #6, and you will see one more each day with the final #10 observation article on Friday April 10.

I feel better now.

Thanks for listening and cutting me a little slack.

Journal entry: Do you need to cut yourself, your staff or your family a little slack as we all together stumble along this pathway of transition in leadership and life?

“Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Proverbs 16:18, The Bible

“Take a deep breath, pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again.” – Frank Sinatra

Roll Up Your Sleeves – Living & Leading in a World of Constant Change, Part 6

Last week we reviewed these 5 concepts: Last week we reviewed these 5 concepts:
One Unshakable Truth – Everyone has unseen battles they are fighting. Be kind.
#1 Change is not the same as transition.
#2 Personality matters.
#3 Role clarity counts.
#4 Principles set the pace.
#5 Purpose is power.

Process matters. Show people a simple model so they can identify where they are in their transition process and progress. Listen and guide them with questions to take ownership of their next step.

New Beginning

As shown here, in each phase there are things people say or do that help you identify which stages someone may currently be experiencing. Ideally, people move progressively from Resisting to Exploring to Committing but people do get stuck in a phase or waffle back and forth. With a little practice, you can learn to identify where people are and help them move forward one step at a time by asking some simple questions and listening attentively.

For example, let’s say you’re a manager after a restructuring has occurred. It has not been long since the layoff. You recognize behavior that indicates a worker seems to still be depressed – displaying Resisting behavior. Your goal would be to help him/her move forward one step to the next phase – Exploring.

To do this, you might ask these type of questions in the order of Past > Present > Future • How do you feel about what happened?
• What do you think about the way this was handled?
• How could this have been done differently?
• What would you like to see happen now?
• What would be a good next step to take to improve our team/department?
• If you see anything we could do better, I’d love to hear your ideas.

Broad Jumping
“Perfect. Perfect. Wouldn’t change a thing. Everybody should just stop whining and get back to work. I think it’s great- I haven’t missed a lick. You keep asking these questions, I’m really too busy to talk.” When you hear this kind of responses to our questions above, this person has done the Promised Land broad jump, like in the summer Olympic games. Their game is pretending to instantaneously leap over all of the emotions people normally go through and act as if their world never changed. I have found that if a person does not acknowledge any feelings along the way in transition, those feelings will show up in a very negative fashion one day – oftentimes in passive aggressive ways or condescending visceral responses. If this happens, just know they are hurting and be patient and remember everyone has unseen battles they are fighting- be kind.

Have a Seat
Whether a person is moving smoothly through the transition phases or broad jumping, it is still your role as a leader to do your part to guide them (not push or direct them) to find their own new beginning. In Roll Up Your Sleeves, Darrius, the master mentor, teaches the four young men a key leadership principle. He says, “Great leaders are great listeners.” Most of us have two challenges when it comes to listening: finding the time and really listening. Since we really can’t find time because it is continually moving, we have to schedule time. Carving out time to talk with people during constant change takes a lot of effort, but fortunately talking doesn’t have to take a lot of time to be effective, if you just have a seat.

An article published in The Journal of Patient Education and Counseling reported about this concept in a controlled study with 120 adult post-operative inpatients admitted for elective spine surgery. The article said that patients commonly perceive that a provider (physician) has spent more time at their bedside when the provider sits rather than stands. Patients perceived the provider as present at their bedside longer when she/he sat, even though the actual time the physician spent at the bedside did not change significantly whether sitting or standing. This study provides empirical evidence for this perception. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.pec.2011.05.024

Journal Entry: Famous humorist, Ashleigh Brilliant, said, “If you think communication challenge for everyone. As problem solvers with extreme time pressures, we tend to focus on “fixing things.” People’s emotions impacted by rapid change cannot be fixed or managed. People usually just need encouragement and attention to heal on their own. As a leader, your goal is to create an atmosphere where that healing can begin. Who do you need to have a seat with- in your leadership and life?

Quotes worth noting:
“It is wiser to find out than to suppose.” Mark Twain

“The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand.We listen to reply.” ― Stephen R. Covey

“See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland.” The book of Isaiah 43:19- The Bible

Roll Up Your Sleeves – Living & Leading in a World of Constant Change, Part 5

Over the past 4 days we reviewed these 4 concepts:
One Unshakable Truth – Everyone has unseen battles they are fighting. Be kind. #1 Change is not the same as transition. #2 Personality matters. #3 Role clarity counts. #4 Principles set the pace.

Today we’ll discuss Observation #5 – Purpose is power. When people know the why behind a change and can see a promised land, both collectively and individually, they can get through transition easier. Without a personal vision or purpose, people tend to go back to their safe endings, no matter how painful those past circumstances were.

Yesterday we talked about the importance of consistently sharing the organization’s values with people during transition and about the importance of understanding your personal values as well. Today we’ll talk about vision or purpose, which is referred to in Roll Up Your Sleeves as your new beginning or your promised land.

There is a best-selling book entitled The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren.The first line in the book is, “It’s not about you.” In today’s climate of me-first, personal branding and a growing sense of entitlement, this idea may feel radical to some people. However, when studying the vision statements of influential organizations and individuals, it becomes apparent that true vision, in business or life, is an inspiration that goes beyond “me” or the desire for status, leisure, and money. Vision becomes a driving passion, and passion is most often derived from times of personal suffering, persecution or injustice. Seldom does vision come from a relaxing mountain-top revelation, a sunset beach epiphany or a well-tailored find-yourself trip around the world.

Leading from Pain
As the youngest U.S. president, John F. Kennedy portrayed the picture of health and youthful energy to the general public. Little did most of the nation know that their vibrant leader had been deathly ill for much of his life. In fact, a priest had read the young Kennedy his last rites twice as a teenager, and at age 30 he was told by his physician that he had less than one year to live. Those situations are mere glimpses into his struggles with physical infirmities. He was plagued with life-threatening setbacks from start to finish.

Many of our great leaders have had to deal with personal hardship and challenging assignments. Lincoln, Gandhi, Roosevelt, and Reagan—almost all of the leaders whose lives I have studied experienced some degree of pain and sorrow beyond understanding. As a result, they were compelled to look deeply within and beyond themselves to their personal resolve and enduring faith. They found their clarifying life vision through (not “over” or “under” or “around” but “through”) their trials … into lives of excellence in a world they helped to move forward.

Vision Pathways
When I was a professional church minister and regularly visited people in the hospital, I could get a good measure of their health from their language and point of reference. When they were very sick, they spoke only of themselves – their medicine, pains and aches. As shown in the sketch below, as they began to get better, their conversations went outside of themselves. When they began to ask about family, community and, finally, about the larger world, I knew they would soon be going home soon.
RUS - Observation 5

Although most of these people fully recovered, a few never moved on with their lives even when they left the hospital. Soon they were back at their doctor, then back to the hospital again, to the safe place of sickness. Of course, there are debilitating illnesses that can create this terrible scenario, but each of us have known people who love going back to their endings, no matter how painful those places were. Their ending was their vision. Visions are hard to let go of once they are decided.

Journal Entry: My definition of a vision is a clear image or statement of how you hope the world will be better, because you believe that God put you here for a reason . Do you know or would you like to explore your vision ? If you’d like to think about this, I have added some questions below for you to consider. My hope is that this might help you move through your transitions easier and find more meaning in your leadership and life.

1. Do you have a friend, mentor, know a public figure, experienced a quiet hero who lived a vision that you want to support and carry on?

2. If you waved a magic wand and, just by this action, one thing would change in the world for good, what would you want that good to look like or to be?

3. What suffering event have you experienced, and you remember then thinking or saying to yourself, “I really ought to do something about that”?

Book Note: Since none of you have read my new book, because it’s has not been released, I thought this might be a good time to say a word about it. Roll Up Your Sleeves is a parable with a biblically based storyline. It is founded on the Exodus story of Moses leading the people of Israel through the wilderness to the land promised to them by God. The story is told through the observations of the characters introduced in my first book The White Shirt. Roll Up Your Sleeves is at all online booksellers and can be pre-ordered now.

Roll Up Your Sleeves – Living & Leading in a World of Constant Change, Part 4

So far this week, we have reviewed these concepts:
One Unshakable Truth – Everyone has unseen battles they are fighting. Be kind. #1 Change is not the same as transition. #2 Personality matters. #3 Role clarity counts.

Today is about Observation #4 – Principles set the pace. Clarity of personal values and shared values guide effective behavior and help set a pace so people can move steadily forward and even grow through their wilderness experience.

In Your Organization’s Keys
Jim Collins and Jerry Porras wrote a classic article in the Harvard Business Review entitled, “Building Your Company’s Vision.” The authors argue that companies which enjoy multi-generational success can be shown to have clearly defined core values and a core purpose that remains fixed … while their business strategies and practices endlessly adapt to a changing world.

As I mentioned yesterday, people need role clarity and clear goals during a transition. These answer “what” for people. That is the place to begin, but alongside this with this practical message don’t forget to offer an ongoing message of why your organization exists, who you serve and your values, and how you treat each other. A leader who does this consistently will see people rally even when there are no more easy “what” answers. Reminding people “our why” will always carry the day- for days.

Recently, I talked with a manager of a collections department in the home security industry. Her staff was responsible for calling and collecting overdue payments. Each person on her team is responsible for collecting a minimal of $350 dollars a day. Collections were down and, as you might suspect, morale was down as well. Her manager was putting pressure on her and she was putting pressure on her staff. Collections went further down, and the staff was complaining even more. So, since pressure turned out not the be the key , she decided to talk to the staff about why their job was important. She told her team that if they did not collect the overdue payments, customers’ security systems would be turned off. The results could be customers’ homes are broken into, people could be robbed and possibly hurt or killed from intruders. She said, “Our job is to keep people safe and out of harm’s way.” The next week average collections were $650 and smiling and laughter echoed from cubicle to cubicle.

How can you help others remember the real “why” you exist and the real keys to your organization’s success?

In Your Life and Career Keys
I have a habit of losing things quite often, so, it has come as quite a surprise to my wife and others who know me well that I’ve held on to a particular key ring through the ownership lifecycle of three vehicles—for over 15 years! You see, I’ve had trouble keeping up with these types of things all my life, usually because I get in a hurry, try to do too many things at once, and end up not paying close enough attention to what’s going on and where things are going in the process.

The fact that I haven’t lost this key ring for over 15 years has been one heck of an accomplishment for me. That knowledge has become, as they say on the coffee commercials, one of life’s simple pleasures. Frankly, I attribute much of this success to the words “The Keys I Haven’t Lost Yet,” which are printed in bold black letters on the tag of the key ring.

Before I got this key ring, when I lost my keys, the obvious next step was for me to ask anyone around “Have you seen my keys?” Then came the most common and counter-productive of the typical responses, “So, where do you think you lost them?” That’s a winner, isn’t it? They may as well just flat-out have asked me, “Have you seen your keys … you dummy!?”

A more helpful response was, “Where was the last place you remember having them?” At least that’s a step in the right direction … many a set of keys has been found after one takes a moment to review their last few steps.

Not surprisingly, a response I never heard was, “Hey, here are the keys to my vehicle. Why not just use them.” Why not?! … well, the answer is, of course, obvious. Their keys won’t work in my vehicle; my keys won’t work in their vehicle. I have my own keys. They have their own keys.

Values are our “keys” to making it though the wilderness and emotional phases of a life or career transition. They are the solid foundation for making everyday decisions as well as long-term plans. Are you clear on your life values? If you don’t decide on your own keys, there are plenty of people who will be happy to hand you their keys. Next time the world around you suddenly shifts on its axis and everyone starts reacting to the biggest threat, chasing the latest trend or lining up to worship the newest handsomest guru – you can just pull out your keys, start your life back and move forward up the hills and down the valleys of transition toward your purpose and promised land, one step and one day at a time.

Journal Entry: Consider taking a few minutes today to recall the last time you had to make a tough decision, and you felt good about how it turned out. What key values or beliefs guided your choice? Jot them down somewhere you will see them every day as a reminder of your keys to true success in leadership and life.

“When values are clear decisions are easy.” Roy Disney

“To be nobody but yourself in a world that is doing its best night and day to make you just like everybody else, means to fight the greatest battle and to never stop fighting.” E.E. Cummings

“And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” First Corinthians 13:13 the NIV Bible

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