A Beautiful Response

A Beautiful Response

One of my favorite things about writing this blog is the responses I receive from you all via email. A few weeks ago, I shared a post with you called “The Flexible Oak,” and an old friend responded with something remarkable: this beautiful poem by Lao Tzu.   newborn – we are tender and weak in death – we are rigid and stiff living plants are supple and yielding dead branches are dry and brittle so the hard and unyielding belong to death and the soft and pliant belong to life an inflexible army does not triumph an unbending tree breaks in the wind thus the rigid and inflexible will surely fail while the soft and flowing will prevail   Let that encourage us to be flexible in our mindset. Thank you for responding with this, Frank; I hope all of you will always feel welcome to respond to these posts. Just comment here, or email me! I’d love to hear form...
Is Change Possible?

Is Change Possible?

Maybe. We’ve all been there, right? Your boss has hired some schmuck to deliver a bunch of feel-good, kumbaya mush that’s supposed to build better teams or something? As one of those schmucks, a question I love to ask my clients and audiences at some point during our interaction is: Is this worth your time? I particularly love to ask that when it’s clear they’re thinking…no!  Of course, many of them don’t believe it’s going to help. They don’t know me. They don’t have any reason to believe this particular talk is going to make any difference. They’ve tried stuff like this before, and it’s created no change whatsoever… What I like to point out is that they’re right. If you’re under the belief that nothing can ever change, well guess what? Nothing will. What’s Henry Ford’s famous line? “If you think you can or you think you can’t…”  It is soooooo easy to stonewall this kind of effort. All you gotta do is Nancy Reagan it and “Just Say No!” No, I won’t participate. No, I won’t talk about it. No, I won’t do anything different. No, this is who I am, I can’t be someone I’m not…No. But if you’re one of those people that thinks “just maybe,” and you’re willing to make a concerted effort to change the toxic culture you work in, your career trajectory, your relationships, your goals — is their any chance that you could do it? If you don’t think so, then any effort is a waste of time. Reading this blog is a waste of time. Coaching is definitely a waste...
The Reciprocal Benefits of Leadership

The Reciprocal Benefits of Leadership

Last week, we talked about the power of your mindset as evidenced by a profound psychological study. Well, there was another study involving nursing home residents that I found to be just as incredible, and just as impactful for us today. In this study, nursing home residents were given plants. Half of the residents, Group A, were expected to take care of those plants; they were explicitly told the plants were their responsibility, to water them, fertilize them and keep them alive. The other half of the residents, Group B, were told the staff would do all the plant care work — their job was just to enjoy them. After eighteen months, twice as many of the residents in Group A were still alive. That means those who were caring for a plant had double the chance of survival! Think about that for a moment. When we have responsibility for another living thing, the value and benefit of our actions isn’t just for the living thing we are caring for. It’s a reciprocal benefit for us both. If we’re twice as likely to live longer taking care of a plant, imagine the impact when we care for and nurture people! When we are called to lead, which we are called to do in every interaction we have with ourselves and others, caring for and nurturing those “on our team” isn’t just the “right thing to do” — it’s the best choice for ourselves. It sustains us, no matter how difficult it may occasionally feel. Leadership isn’t something we do to people, it’s something we do with people. Leadership is...
Accountability Scares the CRAP Out of Us!

Accountability Scares the CRAP Out of Us!

I’ve recently started meeting with an accountability partner, and it’s got me thinking: Setting goals we can be held accountable to is a surprisingly difficult task. In fact, one of my newest clients made an interesting comment on the topic: “If I keep my goals ‘squishy’ and undefined, no one can hold me accountable.” It’s true, isn’t it? The more specific you get, the more obvious it is to those around you if you miss the mark. I can relate to that. That’s why I need an accountability partner! I need to be called out on my “squishiness” and held to a more effective and empowering standard. This is what gets in the way: in order for accountability to work and have value, it requires us to be seen, which is an intensely difficult and vulnerable feeling for most people. Isn’t that why public speaking is our greatest fear in America? You are wholly, vulnerably seen. If you stutter, stammer, misspeak, or mess up in any way, everyone can see it. Because you’re visible. How does that old saying go? “Better to remain silent, and let people think you a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.” Without precise goals, expectations, and objectives, people can’t prove we’re foolish. But the moment we get specific and let other people in on the details, we’re vulnerable. What if we fall short? What if we mess up? What if we can’t do it? We open ourselves up to that judgement running rampant in our culture. It’s truly one of biggest obstacles keeping a lot of people from getting serious...
Making A Well-Rounded Team

Making A Well-Rounded Team

My editor is heading to New York City for a vacation, and I couldn’t help but reminisce about the time my in-laws took us and my girls there for the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. My youngest, Leah, absolutely loved it; that was years ago and she talks about NYC to this day. She just seemed connected to the chaos and the bustle. My oldest, on the other hand — well, she enjoyed the trip, but not in the same way — and she doesn’t find herself longing for the city in the same way. She’s ready for the next adventure. These two sisters have very different values. One of the most difficult challenges you’ll ever face, if you hope to start an organization or business, is how to connect to your members individually. It’s easy to resonate with the people who agree with you; but how do you meet the others where they’re at, giving them what they need to connect? The challenge is not to find an experience that serves everyone, but to find a way to connect individually with the things they value. Remember — individuals are not well rounded. Teams are well-rounded. So as leaders, we want the diversity of opinion and value on our team; the question is how do you harness its power? I use an assessment called the Core Values Index, and all of my clients use it to see how their teams are balanced. Most teams really aren’t — they’re skewed in one way or another. But one of my teams is made up of an almost exactly equal balance of values,...
Under Construction

Under Construction

My house desperately needs a new roof and a new paint job. And a new furnace. And a new dishwasher… 🙂 So we’re in the process of refinancing in order to pull out some of its equity for the repairs. I live in Portland, so since there are only about twelve sunny days a year, there’s a limited window of time in which you can actually book a roofer or a painter — after all, that impending Oregon liquid sunshine is always looming. But here’s the catch I discovered: no refinance will ever be approved if your house is in any way, shape, or form under construction. So I can’t start the construction — or even book a team — until the refinance has gone through. As the summer rapidly dwindles away, the timing is getting more challenging by the day. It’s an ironic and frustrating cycle. I’m missing out on opportunities for roofers as my window of time starts to shrink. And it got me thinking: how many opportunities do we miss as leaders because we ignore the people who are ‘under construction’? Who are more of a risk? Who are being remodeled because their industry dissolved and they are in the process of rebuilding themselves for a new trade, figuring out how to adapt their skills and gifts to a market that can’t yet see their value? They always say it’s easier to get a job when you already have a job, but how many excellent candidates are lost in that shuffle, simply because they appear on the outside to be outdated or incomplete? In so many...