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Month: March 2020

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

Roll Up Your Sleeves – Living & Leading in a World of Constant Change, Part 3

Monday and Tuesday, we reviewed these two concepts:
1- One Unshakable Truth – Everyone has unseen battles they are fighting. Be kind.

2- Change is not the same as transition. Change is an event. Transition is the emotional stages people go through when change happens.

Today’s observation is – Role Clarity Counts. People are structure-seeking beings. When change hits, each person needs to talk about his or her role and how the change will affect them and the ones they love.

I’d like to share a couple of stories and a role clarity technique that I have found useful at certain times.

Promoted to a new role: Three years ago, I was coaching a young lady who was a competent and capable up-and-coming leader. She was just promoted from working in a department to leading the department. She was in her early 30s, and most of the people in the department were in their mid 40s and 50s. The promotion was well deserved, and most people knew that and were accepting – but not everyone. She was wondering how to make this transition work especially since most of the people in the department were a good deal older than she was. She wasn’t just going from Bud to Boss; the grapevine message was that she was going from Baby to Boss.

So, we talked about her concerns and then about how teams are built. We discussed the structure and steps to set up a team that works: 1st set shared goals > 2nd clarify roles> 3rd enhance relationships and 4th simplify procedures. Fortunately, the department had some goals already set and most procedures working okay, so roles and relationships became her focus. A few days later, she held a team alignment meeting. She began by reviewing the goals with the team to see if everyone understood and agreed these objectives were still worth working on. All agreed. Then they reviewed a few of their procedures and processes, and she asked them to make notes about ideas for improving those sometime in the future.

Then she stood, turned to a flipchart and wrote two questions: 1- What do you need from a manager? 2 – What do you not need from a manager? The team just sat there. No one said a thing. I think they were stunned at her approach. She did not come in promoting or advocating for her power position, as their last manager had. Rather than lay down the rules, she simply inquired how they could work together. Finally, one person spoke up and the 2 questions on the flipchart began to fill up. The team talked about the comments and made some agreements. Then one of the team members asked her, “What do you need from us? What do you not need from us?” The new leader had earned the right to make a request and she did. Her first few months on the road to building a team were not completely smooth but a lot of bumps were missed, and potholes were avoided because she began by making sure everyone understood where everyone stood and sat as they moved along to become a team.

Role tune-up exercise in good times: When things change because of positive business evolution or growth, roles can drift and need correction from time to time. This is difficult to do with job description updates. With the pace that things are changing these days, no work would get done, because of time spent rewriting job profiles. So, here is a simple team role clarity input/output method that I recommend teams to at least once a year. Instructions: Find a room with lots of wall space . Give each team member a Post-it note flip-chart size sheet. Get them to write their name and job title across the top. Then make 3 columns with the headings and questions, as illustrated here:

table example

Next, everyone needs to stick their poster on the wall. Then each person is to complete the questions on every team member’s wall posters, but they cannot complete their own. Give people 5 minutes at each poster and then move to the next, round robin. End by having each person comment on what was written by others and add or delete. Finally, you lead the group to agree on any adjustments that need to be made on each role sheet going forward. Note: This could also be done virtually with screen sharing.

Role clarity when dramatic, unexpected change hits: Don’t use the exercise I just presented. Groupthink does not work now. When major economic or political shifts or a new corporate strategy forces an organization to make major structural changes like restructuring, downsizing or mass transfers across the organization, people are going through the ways of transition. (See observations 1 and 2.) At this time, humans need simple straightforward answers on next steps in their workplace role and personal careers so they can take care of their life. Until personal career issues are settled, employees will be too preoccupied to be productive. Get these questions answered in a hurry so people can get on with business. These questions include:

• Will I keep my job?
• Will my pay and benefits be affected?
• What about advancement opportunities?
• Will I have a new boss?
• What is expected of me now?

If you do not know these answers, tell people that you are unsure, promise to get some answers, and follow through with your promise. If you do not provide information, your employees will provide their own. Fill the grapevine with accurate information daily, because the company grapevine is always growing in one direction or another.

see additional resources below

Journal Entry: Which of the situations described here do you find yourself in these days? Is there something you have gleaned from this information that you can use in your Leadership and Life?

For more comprehensive approach to managing dramatic organizational change, read the article “Leading the people who are left” at my website.

Tomorrow I will discuss 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.

Roll Up Your Sleeves – Living & Leading in a World of Constant Change, Part 2

Yesterday I wrote about two foundational concepts:
One Unshakable Truth – Everyone has unseen battles they are fighting. Be kind.

Change is not the same as transition.
Change is an event. Transition is the emotional stages people go through when change happens.

Today the observation is – Personality matters. Every person has a unique way he or she reacts and works through transition. How and when a person rolls up their sleeves and regains their purposeful place is on their clock, not yours.

One size fits one. Each person has a distinct personality that was formed from both nature and nurture. I could talk about the different personality styles, the components that go into a person’s communication styles and such things as that, but I believe you would probably prefer something more practical. So how about a 5-minute, non-scientific, un-validated “how I manage the stress of transition” quiz?

The goal of this exercise is not for you to clearly define your personality, but to raise your awareness that every person has a different, sometimes difficult, personality and you do too. I’d also like you to consider how different personality types show up during the transition phases we discussed yesterday, and I’ll offer a helpful suggestion or two for you to consider to aid you and others along the Wave.

My Transition Stress Management Style: A 3-Step Self-Awareness Quiz

Step 1 – Instructions: There are four descriptions listed under each statement below. Complete each of the “I am” statements by circling 2 of the 4 behavioral descriptions that seem to fit how you see yourself.

I am most satisfied in an environment where I have…
A. Plenty to do – am very busy
B. Freedom from rules and restrictions
C. Details on what to do and how my work needs to be carried out
D. A lot of time to think and reflect

I am happiest in a place where I …
A. Can implement and control how things get done
B. Receive individualized rewards
C. Am free from constant social demands
D. Experience minimal interruptions

I am at my best when I …
A. Deal with many very challenging assignments at once
B. Experience a variety of projects/topics each day
C. Can make sure quality standards are not compromised
D. Am encouraged to create and innovate new approaches

I am motivated to do my best when my manager is …
A. Firm, objective when giving me an assignment
B. More low-key and laid-back in their approach
C. Clear about roles and makes sure people stay in their lane
D. Asks for my opinion when he or she institutes a change

Step 2 – Tallying Instructions:
Talley: Look over your choices in Step 1. Talley the number of A’s, B’s, C’s or D’s you circled. Then record your totals below to the left of each of the letters below.
I circled …
____ A’s
____ B’s
____ C’s
____ D’s

Step 3 – Discovery of Ways to Motivate Yourself
– The letter above with the highest number represents your most likely approach to transition. If you have a tie, you can go back to the Step 1 and rank your two choices as primary or secondary or just move on and decide which descriptions below feels right to you. Remember this is not a test to get right. It is something to help you appreciate that each person sees things in different ways, and to remember to Be Kind to yourself and others.

– Find your letter A, B, C, D letter and mark it on the Stress Descriptions and Helpful Hints list below. Consider some of the strategies listed under your letter choice if you think you want or need to make a step forward in your transition.

Stress Descriptions and Helpful Hints
A. If your highest total was an A, when you are feeling stressed, you may become argumentative, lacking empathy or dominating. If this seems true to you, consider these ideas as a way to move yourself forward.

  • Ask for more work to do or offer to help someone so you have plenty on your plate.
  • Find a hands-on project you can complete start to finish and control in a short time.
  • Enlist a direct and confident mentor who will push you to accomplish something big.
  • Plant a tree, clean a room or repair something that been broken for a while

B. If your highest total was B, when you are feeling stressed, you may become needlessly busy, detached or very disorganized. If this seems true to you, consider these ideas as a way to move forward.

  • Set a clear measurable goal and find someone who will hold you accountable.
  • Find a project in a new area or learn something new at work or home.
  • Establish a structure and system that helps track or monitor your to-do list
  • Focus on being where your feet are- don’t multi-task- complete one important( not urgent) project each day

C. If your highest total was C, when you are feeling stressed, you may become somewhat withdrawn, over-controlling or resistant. If this seems close to true to you, consider these ideas as way to take a next step forward.

  • Bow out of some of your commitments that involve interacting with lots of people.
  • Ask for clarity of your role often during this period of change.
  • Review the policies and procedures you have used in the past and see if they will stay the same or shift in the current situation.
  • Create a to-call list of friends and use a check system list and reach out twice a week

D. If your highest total was a D, when you are feeling stressed, you may become more pessimistic, too idealistic or indecisive. If this seems somewhat true to you, consider these ideas as a way to make your next step forward.

  • Tell those around you that you need to be alone for certain short periods of time.
  • Make careful notes on what you hear about expectations people have of you and verify with that person so there are fewer misunderstandings.
  • Schedule extra time to think and reflect on big picture ideas with a friend or partner.
  • Paint or draw a picture, do a coloring book, write a poem or send a note to someone you feel needs a lift.

Please keep top of mind the idea that the reactive or negative side of an individual’s personality will likely be more prominent when they are in the Resisting stage than if he or she is moving through the Exploring or Committing phase. Remember people don’t always follow the phases in order but can and do move ahead and step back on their Wave.

Journal Entry: How can you acknowledge the value of a person with a different personality and who may also be in a different stage of transition than you? Consider asking her or him to take the Quiz, talking about what you saw or realized and maybe having a chuckle about your results. Learning about yourself and laughter can be like medicine to help you get through this transition in your Leadership and Life.

“A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones.” Proverbs 17:22 (The Bible NIV)

“Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly. Kiss slowly. Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably. And never regret anything that makes you smile.” Mark Twain.

Tomorrow’s observation will be Role Clarity Counts. People are structure-seeking beings. When change hits, each person needs to talk about his or her role and how the change will affect them and the ones they love.

Roll Up Your Sleeves – Living and Leading in a World of Constant Change, Part 1

Many of you know that I have written a new book as a follow-up to The White Shirt. The title and tag line are displayed at the top of this message today. My publisher just approved the final edits and the book will released in Fall 2020. But I wanted to share some of ideas from this book before then.

Those of you who know me well know that I am very cautious about overloading people with information, but these are unprecedented times. I thought that sharing some practical guidance from this book might be helpful to you and sooner might be better than later.

So, for the next 10 business days I will send out a Special Edition of this journal that covers the Ten Observations & One Unshakable Truth found in my book. I will not reference the current events or virus-like symptoms people are or may be experiencing. I will simply share these Observations , offer a tip or two and let you make your own applications.

I hope this will be helpful.

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

As best-selling author and speaker Pat Lencioni said in a recent post, “Demonstrate your concern for the very real fears and anxieties that your people are experiencing, not only professionally and economically, but socially and personally. Even though you don’t have definitive answers to all of their questions, don’t let that keep you from listening to them and empathizing with their fears. And, contrary to conventional wisdom, you should not be hesitant to share your own concerns with your people. They want to know that they can relate to you and that they are not alone in their concerns.”

Ride the wave right beside them – stay connected.
Waves of Fear

#1 Change is not the same as transition. Change is an event. Transition is the emotional stages people go through when change happens.
stages curve

This model illustrates the first observation. After a significant change event occurs, individuals move through three predictable phases of emotions: Resisting, Exploring and Committing. But before positive movement can begin after change, an “ending” or the acceptance that the past has happened (and there is no need to expend effort on “the things I should have done”) must occur for people to move forward.

Models are helpful because they add some predictability during unpredictable times – something known in the midst of the unknown . The sketch above and the list below can sometimes help a person step out of their “fear” point of view and step up to a higher viewing point and see their emotions as normal. They can begin to understand where they are in the transition process and know what to expect next.

Here is a list of thoughts and behaviors often observed in each transition phase:

Resisting: “Things were so good in the past.” Holding back feelings. Numbness. Everything as usual attitude. Repressing reality. “It’s their fault”. Anger. Loss and hurt. Blaming others. Depression. Poor sleep habits. Getting Sick. Complaining. Doubting your ability. Withdrawal.

Exploring: “What’s going to happen to me? ” Seeing possibilities. Chaos. Indecisiveness. Energy. Clarifying goals. Learning new skills or take up a hobby . Acceptance.

Committing: “Where are we headed?” Focus. Vision. Working together. Corporation. Thankfulness. Innovation. Creativity.

Journal Entry: Where are you on the waves of emotions today? Where were you 7 days ago -3 days ago – today ? What next for you? One way to help yourself and others is to share this message and talk about your experience on the transition wave, so both of you can have a better sense of what may be next as you move forward in your Leadership and Life.

“We resist transition, not because we can’t accept the change, but because we can’t accept letting go of that piece of ourselves that we have to give up, when and because, the situation has changed.” – William Bridges

Next we’ll take the 2nd observation: Personality matters. Every person has a unique way he or she reacts and works through transition. How and when a person rolls up their sleeves and regains their purposeful place is on their clock, not yours.

Running to Reverence

At Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, right before each surgery begins, the whole team of doctors, nurses, and others stop what they are doing. They take a short moment to remember the person they’re going to conduct surgery on. They call it the moment of reverence.

The team goal is to ensure that everyone remembers the humanity of the situation. It’s about breaking the routine procedures, pausing to recognize the importance of what’s happening, and appreciating the people involved. This moment can also reinforce a core value that everyone should be proceeding with – to encourage care, precision and empathy.

The moment of reverence is a short ritual that occurs right before an important event, meeting, or talk.

This ritual can also be used by individuals. For example, a person might take an intentional pause after walking from their desk to a meeting and reflect for few seconds on crossing over from one environment to the next. Taking a moment can help a person be conscious of the others around them and the power and purpose of their work. This moment of reverence can also be a means centering as you transition from one role to another. A wise young friend of mine calls this ”being where your feet are.”

Journal entry: Things may feel out of control as we are running to get ahead or just catch up, but there is one thing we can choose to control: the beginning and end of a talk, a team meeting, a conversation or your day. How might you apply a moment of reference in your leadership and life?

*Adapted from an article in the book Rituals for Work, by Kursat Ozenc and Margaret Hagan.

“My dear, here we must run as fast as we can, just to stay in place. If you wish to go anywhere you must run twice as fast as that.” – Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” The Bible’s New Testament in the book of Matthew 11:28 KJV

For Safety Sake

I work with a lot of organizations where safety is the # 1 priority . These businesses have many programs, promotions and presentations to keep safety upmost in the minds of all employees. Of course, they are talking about physical safety – specifically working safe so that everyone can to go home to loved ones at the end of the workday physically whole, i.e. no accidents.

There is another type of safety that impacts not only physical safety but productivity, innovation and collaboration as well. This other type of safety is psychological safety which is defined as a belief that “I will not be punished or humiliated for speaking up with ideas, questions, concerned or mistakes.” When people feel psychologically safe, being at work feels energizing and joyful, information is shared openly and with enthusiasm, and meetings are effective and filled with laughter.

In a culture that is not psychologically safe:

  • Accidents increase, because people hesitate to report concerns or offer suggestions.
  • Innovation sparks, but never flames into a real application, because pushing a new idea might get you pushed right off your career track.
  • Productivity wanes, when the increasing pressure and excelling pace found in every workplace feels heavier and more imposing because people don’t feel free to express their frustrations without being judged as weak or less than, by one sideways glance.

It is important to acknowledge that there are some individuals who, because of some past deep personal experiences, will never feel psychologically safe in any environment, but that is not my expertise or the focus of this article. But regarding teams, I have found that if a team has been together several years and is still exhibiting some of the behaviors mentioned above, it is usually a reflection of their shared past events. For example, the team was told clearly that they had authority in a certain area, but when they acted on that authority – they found out quickly and surely that they did not really have it. Or the team was charged to come up with a project plan and when they did, top management unilaterally and significantly changed the plan without explanation. Or after a meeting that didn’t go as as management wanted it to go, a scapegoat was found and everyone knows what happened, because that person has not spoken up in a meeting since.

Fortunately, there is a direct and effective way to re-create a psychologically safe environment for a team. It is called confessing your error in judgement, as well as the action you took and asking the team for forgiveness. I said direct and effective, not easy. If you would like to learn more about how to go about this, you can click on this video on psychological safety. It is very good.

Journal entry: Is there a team or some group that you need to do whatever-it-takes to help them feel safe so once again they can make their best contribution in leadership and life?

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