Establishing a Personal Reflection

Taking time for personal reflection

“Tell me and I will forget, show me and I will remember, involve me and I will understand.” ~ Socrates (470-399 BC)

Socrates had it right. The more we are involved in and with something, the more we understand the topic.

While most of us can easily agree with diving into our work using all the technical knowledge and subject matter expertise, seldom do we pause to reflect on the most powerful source in our reach. Oursleves.

Do you have a regular habit of being reflective?

A colleague of mine, John N. Younker, Ph.D. writes on this subject:

“Reflective Practice is the ability to reflect on one’s actions so as to engage in a process of continuous learning.  

It involves paying critical attention to your values and principles as you apply them in your everyday actions (decisions and choices). 

By practicing reflection, as a part of your ongoing learning, it can result in developmental insights. A key rationale for reflective practice is that experience alone does not necessarily lead to learning; deliberate reflection on experience is key and essential for learning from your life experiences.

Further, it has been written, that reflection … or having a reflective practice … can be an important tool in practice-based professional learning settings where people learn from their own professional experiences, rather than from formal learning or knowledge transfer. It may be the most important source of personal professional development and improvement. 

A person who reflects throughout his or her practice is not just looking back on past actions and events but is taking a conscious look at emotions, experiences, actions, and responses, and using that information to add to his or her existing knowledge base and reach a higher level of understanding.”

For these reasons I have learned to enhance my own New Year’s resolution and goal setting habits to include a deep dive into reflective learning; learning from the past year’s experiences.

Besides merely defining some BHAGs for the new year (Big Hairy &#^#% Goals), you should be deciding on life changes that keep you in sync with who and what you truly want to be about.

Living a Purposeful Life

Living life with intentional direction is far more rewarding than one day arriving at some destination and wondering why or how you got there.

personal reflection

This is why having a different process for setting your new year vision should include an outlook/forecast as well a your own annual planning.

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=”18″] Therefore, your Outlook & Annual Planning is the ability and the discipline required to live and experience a “Purposeful Life.” Personal strategic planning is a disciplined thought process, that actively engages and involves you. It leads you to make important decisions and take actions that shape what is truly important to you. You do it because of who you are and what you uniquely do; guiding how, when and why you do it. ~John Younker[/perfectpullquote]

The purpose of the Annual Personal Outlook process … Personal Strategic Planning process is to help you to:

  1. Decide on a direction for your life … your future.
  2. Make purposeful and meaningful contributions throughout your life.
  3. Gain clarity of your core values, beliefs and aspirations.
  4. Make decisions that will positively affect and impact your future.
  5. Focus your energies on what is most important to you.
  6. Achieve the greatest results in a defined period of time.
  7. Focus on increasing your level of performance, in all aspects of your life.
  8. Live and enjoy a more fulfilling life.
  9. Create balance and freedom to more effectively choose from your opportunities.
  10. Reduce uncertainty, anxiety, doubt and fear.
  11. Leverage your unique Knowledge, Skills and Abilities to more effectively Perform (KSAPs).
  12. Enhance your confidence and overall peace of mind.
  13. Be more by doing more that ultimately enables you to gain more from your life choices.

Finding a Plan

If you are into looking for good tools to help you map your intentions and reflections, look at STRYV.

STRYV Dashboard

The STRYV (strive) dashboard gives you a simple but powerful way to plot the areas of your life that mean the most to you. If you are lagging in your impact in one or more areas, STRYV gives you the planning tools to get on track and stay there.

Disclaimer: STRYV is an independent offering not affiliated with DougThorpe.com or HeadwayExec, LLC. There is no financial consideration for STRYV being mentioned here.

Leadership Avoiding the Split

In a recent Ted Talk, Simon Sinek eloquently describes the most critical pivot point in the life of all companies, communities, and tribes. He presents the principle that all organizations are formed around ideas formulated by the founders. Yet as success grows, the connection to the original vision may get lost.

 

Think about the great entrepreneurial ventures today; Apple, Google, Amazon, and Uber just to name a few. In every case, a person or persons gathered together to design an idea and put that idea in motion. In doing so they simultaneously created two parallel initiatives; success and vision.

By pursuing the vision one would hope for some measure of success. As long as the enterprise stays small and closely connected to the founders, the vision tracks very closely with the success. But as success grows and the company expands, more people must be hired who hire others, who hire others, and soon the success trajectory exceeds the vision path.

Success and Vision

While success grows, the vision may falter. We have all likely experienced this when we hear the people who were close to the founders say “it’s not like it used to be”. If the connection to the vision gets lost or diluted by success companies start trying to find themselves again.

Think about the history at Apple. Steve Jobs founded the company but left. After he left, the company floundered and he was invited to return. The same thing happened at Starbucks and Dell too. The founders created success, left, and had to return.

The point at which the success deviates from the vision is something Sinek calls the “Split”. The split can cause an otherwise very successful idea to lose its way.

So What?

If the Split is a highly probable event on the timeline of your company, what is a leader to do?

First, stay true to core beliefs that got you going in the first place. The Hedgehog Concept was originally based on an ancient Greek parable. [perfectpullquote align=”right” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”#d98310″ class=”” size=””]”The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.” [/perfectpullquote]

Business researcher and consultant, Jim Collins, used this concept as a metaphor for business in his influential book, “Good to Great.” Hedgehogs live their lives with basically one thing to do; be a good hedgehog. They don’t get distracted nor waver in their pursuit of life.

In business, it’s easy to get distracted, take your eye off the ball, and run after shiny objects. If you’ve achieved some level of success, the rewards may convince you to buy new equipment or expand beyond your capabilities. Doing any such thing without a consistent plan for growth is a fast way to deviate from the original vision.

Sharing the Vision

Leaders are usually associated with visionary thinking. OK, you have a vision. Great. Have you effectively shared that vision with those around you?

I have clients who are in fact, good leaders. Without exception, when asked about their vision for their company or team, they describe a large landscape picture in their mind. Every moving part and every detail of the end-game is painted into that picture. They see the integral movement of the pieces. They know the critical paths to success.

Yet the challenge these brilliant leaders face is the ability to share the vision with their team. Too much detail may overwhelm people. Too little detail leaves subordinates guessing.

Steve Jobs is often cited as saying he never wanted Apple to build the best equipment. No, he wanted a new user experience connecting to technology. There is a critical difference in that vision.

Leaders need to know when and how to share the exact parts of the vision map with the team members so that the work is in line with the vision.

Take a moment today and ask yourself “Is what we are doing right now consistent with what we intended to do when we started?” If yes, then congratulations. If not, take a fresh look at the original vision. Peel away the people and things that have taken you off course. Make the conscious decision to get back to the original vision.

If you need help working through the tough calls to get back to the right vision, perhaps a coach can help. My team and I will be happy to come alongside.

Saying Thanks to Old Mentors for Their Inspiration

This week families across the USA gather to celebrate Thanksgiving. It means many different things to different people. As one of my clients shared when I asked about his plans, “lots of food, too much to drink, and too much football.” (Sounds like my kind of gathering, but I digress).

The spirit of this holiday is to pause and reflect. More importantly, it’s a time to offer thanks for the many blessings in life, whether material, emotional, or spiritual.

Thanking Leaders from the Past

I was reminded this past week there is another kind of thanks we seldom share. A good friend and fellow coach whom I’ve known for decades was telling me how she recently wrote a blog citing mentors and leaders she has known. The central theme was a note of gratitude to those former bosses for being great leaders; senior managers who inspired and motivated their following.

Hearing my friend share this poignant idea, I was convicted that I have not done enough to say thanks to those who have guided me. I’ve been blessed with some amazing people who have come into my life at various stages, investing time and energy to share their views and experience. The collective wisdom has helped me make better choices along the way. It has shaped my values and principles.

As I think through my list, the reality is that many, not all, of those I count as great inspirations, have passed away. Their legacy remains with me, but I no longer have the chance to say thank you to all of them personally.

I’m going to list the names but won’t go into detail about their impact. Simply stated, I thank you, one and all for spending the time you spent to help a young man. So in no particular order:

  • Jack Whitaker
  • George Jared
  • Tim Balter
  • MSG Jimmy Howard
  • Col. Hal Gaines
  • J. Wayne Stark
  • Col. Gaither Bray
  • LTC Jap Champion
  • Everett Gambrell
  • Dr. John Bisagno
  • Gene Elliott
  • Harriet Wasserstrum
  • Lane Sloan
  • Mary Kole
  • Dick Hendee
  • Mel Maltz
  • Dr. John Lockhart

Thank you for being who you are and doing what you do. You didn’t have to do it, but you did/do.

Who In Your Life?

Take a moment and think about those in your life who made the commitment to mentor. If you can contact them, do so. Spend a minute to give back.

Use the lessons they gave to continue your leadership growth toward the ability to make a difference. They did. Why shouldn’t you? It’s your turn to be a stepping stone for someone.

 

 

What Are Your Defining Moments?

Defining moments. What do they mean to you? I don’t hear people talk much these days about defining moments, but we all share them. No, not the exact situation or set of circumstances, but the reality of having things happen to us or through us that make big changes in the way we see the world.

Often defining moments come via life events; relationships that come and go plans we thought we had with great potential, disappointments, or big fears overcome. The list of possible defining moments or “aha” moments varies for each of us.

A Few Stories

In my own case, the list of these moments seems long. As the only child of a single, working Mom, I was a latch-key kid before that was a thing. Facing certain fears of coming home from school and going into an empty house had to be overcome. At seven or eight years old, that was huge. Yet I did it. My sense of self-confidence began growing at such an early age. It was fight or flight. I did neither.

In middle school, there was a situation when I felt wronged by the administration for missing a deadline due to a minor illness. This wasn’t a disciplinary matter, but an opportunity to run for student council that required filing deadlines. Mom refused to fight my battle. She said if I believed in what the issue was about I needed to fight for what I believed. At age 13 I marched into the principal’s office and delivered what was a well-rehearsed pleading for justice. Clearly, it worked. My filing exception was granted and I ran a successful campaign. Life lessons were being taught.

The Big Cheese

Fast forward some 18 years. I was working in my first few years at a large regional bank. A very senior executive jumped me one day in a large meeting. He essentially chewed me out for delivering some bad news for his department. It was definitely embarrassing for me. I was the proverbial messenger and nothing more. That night I thought about it long and hard.

This executive was famous for arriving at the bank before anyone else. So I was there too. I went to his office and knocked on his door. It startled him. He was not used to seeing anyone for at least another hour. I asked if he had a moment to talk. Visibly shaken, he agreed and invited me in. Again I was prepared. I told him I thought the situation yesterday was uncalled for. I was merely the messenger. Further, I said that I planned to have a long career there and I knew that because of his already senior leadership role, I needed to work well with him. To that end I wanted him to know that while I respected his position he needed to respect me too for what I could contribute.

He smiled and said “Doug you are perfectly correct. I apologize. And I look forward to our days and years ahead.” Another defining moment.

By the way. A few months later this same executive called me back into his office. He handed me an envelope which turned out to be my first bonus check at that bank.

The ‘So What’

Defining moments are only valuable once you can point to a specific moment in time and realize something big changed. As I said earlier, we all have defining moments. However, it is what we do with them that makes the difference.

If a particular situation happens and you ignore it, then likely it is by no means a defining moment. Yet when the really special moment happens you usually know it right away. You discover a new you or you change your outlook in an instant.

I suggest that there is value in revisiting those moments throughout your career. Use them as stepping stones to keep moving forward. If you start feeling down or defeated, just remember one of those earlier defining moments. Grab the strength and resolve from them to renew your spirit and rekindle the purpose you need.

Remember, overnight success is a myth. Name anyone who has been considered an overnight success and you will find they actually spent years perfecting their offering. The same is true of great business and community leaders. It takes years of intentional effort to build a reputation as a leader. Your defining moments can shape you and mold you for the right opportunity.

If you’re having trouble seeing the storyline unfold, an executive coach might be the right answer.

Living in the Meantime

There are times when nothing particularly big is happening. You’re in between assignments, projects, or deadlines. You have work to do and places to be, but the sense of purpose goes on autopilot. The time between one occurrence and another; an interval is the meantime.

Should that bother you? I say not necessarily unless it lingers too long.

I call this “living in the meantime.” You just finished something and are waiting for the next thing to arrive or start. Yet life is going on. You must wait or endure in the meantime.

Meantime can be a good time if you choose to use it wisely. We all need recovery times after running a fast pace, high energy cycle. See my prior article on this very important aspect of stress management. But we can also use the meantime for growth and learning.

Leaders need to wisely use the meantime. You can use the time both personally and professionally.

Team

What might otherwise feel like a lull can be a powerful way to reconnect with the team. Running at a fast pace has a way of distancing your more personal relationships at work. I am talking about those interactions one on one with your team. I’ll guess that when the projects are flying at a wild pace, you likely do less of your one on one meetings. Typically you let those slide in favor of group sessions.

When the meantime comes, take time to rebuild the one on one.

Personally

Leaders need to recalibrate. You too can get off track with personal disciplines when the workload is bigger than you are used to. Again, you likely forego your routines like eating right and going to the gym when the daily schedule is packed too tight.

Use the meantime to reset. Focus your daily planner on the things that work well for you. Get back to the right routines.

Professionally

Living in the meantime can have other benefits too. Stephen Covey talks about “sharpening the saw.” This is finding books or other sources of inspiration and learning to keep moving forward. If the last big push at work revealed some opportunities for you to grow, then use the meantime to do it. Perhaps your last review showed areas for improvement. Meantime is the time to invest in improving where you need to so that you can be the best YOU you need to be.

Living in the meantime is really a great time. Use it wisely.

Question: What have you done lately to redeem the meantime in your life?

 

The Power of Positivity: 5 Way to Get More in Your Life

There is a general consensus among clients I serve that says “the pace of business is greater than it’s ever been.” Fast pace usually includes a focus on performance; do more, be more.

I’m a big fan of improving performance at all levels both personal and professional. At work, team performance is a big deal too. If you lead a work team, you likely suffer your own pressure for higher and better performance. Yet in the face of all the push to perform, what has gotten left out?

The word is POSITIVITY

For many of us, being positive does not always come naturally. We get busy and we get centered on the task at hand. We leave the good-natured, positive outlook behind. A friend or spouse may ask “what’s going on?” Our response is usually just “I’m busy.” Then bust becomes a habit and positivity is forgotten.

You can be focused on performance and still build a climate of positive energy in what you and your team may be doing. If you struggle with finding your own positivity, here are five habits that I’ve used that will attract more positivity into your life.

5 Ways to Get More Positive

Make a daily gratitude list

Each day, either in the morning or before you go to sleep, write down at least one thing that you’re thankful for in your life. When you do this on a consistent basis, you naturally begin to focus on the positive and see more of the good things that are happening around you instead of the bad.

Perform acts of kindness

Doing something nice for someone, even the smallest of unexpected gestures, not only makes others happy, it adds positivity to your life as well. Make acts of kindness a frequent habit. You could pay the tab for the person behind you at Starbucks. Bring coffee for the security guard at your office. Pay the toll for the car behind you. Write a thank you note to someone who helped you. Not sure what to do, check out the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation for more ideas.

Be fully present

We are constantly distracted, always looking at our phones and thinking about everything we have to do, or should be doing. While we’re engrossed in our Facebook timelines and playing games, we’re missing all of the positive things that are going on around us, and in some cases sitting directly across from us. Being fully present takes practice, but it pays huge dividends. Ten minutes of meditation each day can increase your awareness and focus on being present.

Reduce negative influences

The things we surround ourselves with and listen to have a big impact on our mindset, both negative and positive. Think about what you’re watching, reading and listening to throughout the day. When you fill your mind with negativity, it becomes easier to dwell on the negativity in your life. Be careful of who you spend your time, too. Do your best to stay away from other negative people. You become like the people you spend the most time with.

Spend time at the start of each day to improve YOU.

With all the demands on our time, there’s always other priorities and people vying for our attention. That’s why so many of us don’t make time to work on ourselves. It’s easy to use the “but I’m too busy” or “I’m too tired” excuse, especially if you don’t put yourself first at the start of the day. Stop snoozing your alarm and get up 30 – 60 minutes earlier and create a morning routine that consists of mindfulness, visualization, reading, exercise, and journaling. Speaking from my experience, you will be amazed at the impact this has on your life.

Note: some excerpts provided by Tyler C. Beaty

Leadership Coaching | Influence vs. Power

Influence v Power

As professionals get moved into management roles, there’s a natural confusion about what to do and how to do it. Moving from being an individual contributor on a team to running the team is a big leap for most of us. This is especially true in industries where people don’t train for management positions.

Influence v Power

It is very common to see the best producer or highest performer get tapped to become the next manager should a vacancy open up. If you’re that guy, you have so much to learn about leading the team.

Let me stop right here and say to those more seasoned managers (i.e. you’ve been in the role for a while and have already been promoted more than once) hang with me for a minute. What I am about to say applies to you too. You see, those who survive their first management assignment might fall into a routine of what they think is good leadership, but you can be wrong.

It’s Not the Position

While there is definitely power in the manager’s position, that power is the worst kind to use for making yourself known and understood. Yes, you can assert the manager’s power simply by being the person named manager, but real leadership comes from other sources of power. Just because your role was defined by the business entity doesn’t make you the best manager.

You have to find other ways to lead the people who report to you. Rather than limiting this message to issues about who’s got the power or not, let’s shift and talk about influence. This is an important concept to grasp.

It has been said the simple difference between management and leadership is this:

[perfectpullquote align=”full” bordertop=”false” cite=”” link=”” color=”” class=”” size=””]Management is about process. Leadership is about people.[/perfectpullquote]

If true leadership is about people, then what you must do is to be able to influence people not manipulate them. The best leaders find ways to pull people along, not push them. Here are some key tips to remember as you work to differentiate between power and influence.

Leadership Lessons – Influence vs. Power

  • Looking like a leader doesn’t make you a leader.
  • Lead with the Authentic You; don’t try to be someone you’re not.
  • Knowing how to perform the position does not equate to being able to lead the position.
  • Power only lasts so long before there’s a revolt.
  • Influence means those following are doing it by choice.
  • Teachable moments are only valuable if we use them to teach.

 

coaching call

 

Questions, Questions, Questions – Asking Better Leadership Questions

questions

Our headlines are filled with questions. Did he? Did she? Who did what and when? Why? All of these questions consume our attention and build tensions between opposing factions. For what real good? (Ha, another question!)

questions

Questions can be used for good or bad. Well-intended questions can add clarity. A properly structured question uttered in the context of a healthy discussion can help two parties share information and grow together; learning can happen and prosperity emerges. However, questions asked with hidden meaning or mean spirit can only serve to undermine confidence and credibility.

The Leadership Question

For executives, managers, and business owners, the effective use of a proper question is very powerful. Yet using an ill-timed or poorly thought out question only serves to muddy the waters.

I speak with clients all the time who express concerns that their questions cause disruption rather than unity. Managers who like to manage by walking around can’t help but ask questions out on the floor. While the messages are usually very innocent, they can stir quite a controversy without any good framework.

There are business leaders who like to know what’s going on. How else can you do that BUT by asking questions? Then there’s the situation where you just got hired or promoted to fill a big role, but you don’t know what you don’t know, so you start asking questions.

Inevitably the questions do more harm than good. Here are some the usual reactions employees have after your question gets asked:

  • Why did he/she ask that?
  • Is there something I am missing?
  • Are we changing directions?
  • I thought he should know that.

Stump the Chump

Questions can also become “gamey”. Ask too many questions and people start to feel like you are playing stump the chump. You know, the game where the “expert” gets asked a hundred questions to determine whether they really know their stuff or not.

I tell the story of walking the floor one day in my banking days. I managed a large team of loan administrators. One of my senior administrative people stopped me. He said he had some questions. I agreed to weigh in.

He proceeded to test me on the calculations he had done. I answered all the issues then asked him why such questions because there really weren’t any open items to discuss.

He said he was curious if “the Big Dog” knew his stuff. My response? “How do you think I got to be the BIG DOG?”

The Answer

Here’s my advice to executives worried about the questions they ask. I recommend using a technique I call the bookend approach. Open with one bookend. Frame your question with context. Start by explaining where you might be going. Examples are “I need to know more about X.” Or “Remember we talked about ________, please tell me more.”

Then proceed with the question or questions. But close the interaction with another bookend. “Ok this helps me a lot.” or “I didn’t realize how that worked.” Even more important “Good, this is right on target with our vision and direction.”

By using bookends, you open and close the exchange with specific ideas. You eliminate the wondering and wandering that people’s thoughts may do merely by you asking a question out of the clear blue.

The added bonus is you get credit for being an effective communicator.

Try this the next time you are out talking with your team. I promise you will see better reactions.

Originally posted on DougThorpe.com

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Leadership and Life – Walking the Fine Lines

walking-fine-lines

Travel around the sun a few times and you learn things. If I’ve learned anything traveling my journey around the sun (I’ve done it 65 times), I see people all around who trip on the fine lines. What do I mean? I am talking about those oh so subtle differences between things that are very good and those that are just plain bad.

walking-fine-lines

Life requires us to walk fine lines every day. Leadership demands great execution on walking fine lines.

Here are a few examples.

Coaching clients occasionally ask me how to become more confident. This is particularly true in younger, less experienced managers who have been promoted into bigger jobs. They think they have the experience it may take but are easily embarrassed when sitting at the “bigger table”. Having confidence in your own ability is important.

By building your confidence, you can represent your team or your cause with greater authority and thus increase your influence. However, too much confidence crosses the line and becomes arrogance.

Not long ago I received a note from someone in my tribe who shared his concern for getting hired by the right company. He proceeded to tell me all about his accomplishments and his attributes. The list turned out to be a long one. The more he explained the more arrogant the tone became. Clearly, there was some emotion tied to the message. What could have been an appropriately confident message became a rant of arrogant nature.

I advised the young man to check his motives and emotions, sharing directly with him the way the tone turned me off. The logical presumption was that if he spoke with hiring managers this way, it would be easy to see why he doesn’t get offers.

Be Like Mike

Another fine line is the balance between aspiring to behave like certain people versus becoming them. If you identify with a particular person and say to yourself “I’d like to be more like them.” you can grow and learn. But if you cross the fine line and decide “I will BE them.” you fail. You can never be someone else; that job is taken.

You can, however, learn from others’ behaviors and add to your own skill sets and values.

Yet by trying to be someone you are not, you lose your own identity. Going too far away from the core of who and what you are can be detrimental. In our world of rapid response and social media, we get bombarded with FOMO messages. Fear of missing out clouds our lines of sight for the true and essential people we should be.

Making Adjustments

When you think you need to make an adjustment, often there is another fine line. Correct too much and you veer out of control.

I learned this training for my pilot’s license. Most aircraft are designed to fly. Strange concept right? But seriously, they fly very well, almost without a human pilot. When I get behind the stick, I may have a tendency to over-correct for adjustments in need to make in pitch, trim, and speed. Learning how to fly straight and level is harder than you might think. Yet if I can get the plane positioned on the course I choose, I can trim the flight controls and take my hands off the stick. It runs much smoother that way.

But if I am constantly chasing the horizon or turning off course, I waste precious flight time. Too severe an adjustment up or down, left or right and the flight is not as smooth as it could be.

The same is true in life. Make tiny adjustments when you think you need to make any adjustments. Let the change you make take hold. See where you’re going.

Make Your Own List

I’m guessing I only scratched the surface of fine lines you can think of. Share a few more in the comments. Hit the like (or not).

PS – As I am wrapping this up, I had another example of making small adjustments. I was out pulling my small utility trailer which I use helping folks with odd jobs. It’s a smallish trailer so backing it up can be tricky. The motions to back it in a straight line are ever-so-small. Too much correction and I can jack-knife the trailer in a heartbeat. Try it yourself one day. It’s a great picture of how over-steering can lead you way off course.