Keeping quite at a cost

Taize-Silence

A recent article in the Harvard Business Review discussed a long time phenomenon the author calls “violent politeness”. This is when we enter the workforce young and eager to make our mark we often leave our voice behind.  Why?  Because speaking up and potentially sharing our critical opinion comes with a cost.  We think the cost is being labeled as being “not a team player” or “negative” or “he never has anything good to say”.  Because of this we think silence is the answer, but at what cost?

Silence is not a solution.The reality is when we don’t speak our mind we are building up in ourselves a learned behavior of not sharing what could potentially be the best asset we bring to any environment, our opinion.

I have been luck enough in my career to work for some people who not only encouraged honesty, but demanded it.  Because of that a great deal of the learned behavior I have built my career around is not being afraid to share my opinion.  Some times it costs me short-term status, but often times it increased my long-term value when I am shown as being the lone voice of reason in hindsight.

The article got me to think a little about my current work environment.  The current environment does not lend itself to honestly sharing opinion or comment or ideas.  For one thing these are not asked for by others.  No one comes to you and says, “I just wanted to get a different set of eyes on this, what do you think?”  They are all too busy building empires, which the worst enemy of empire building is the insight and opinion of others.

Because of that in recent years I have slowly been retrained to not bring honesty to the table, because honesty is negatively rewarded. However, I have not allowed this to change the way I lead others or how I interact with others where I know the relationships can withstand honesty.  I still approach these with the focus of sharing honest opinion and insight.

So it makes me wonder what it would be like if we all made an agreement to come to the table with honesty in tow in our work environment.  What if we where able to accept it was okay to share honestly without fear, and not only accept it, but expect it?  What would work look like if that was the base expectation?

The article that spurred this thought (“Why Work Is Lonely” by Gianpiero Petriglieri) can be found by clicking here.

Working to Death…

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I know we say this at times, “You are going to work yourself to death if you aren’t careful!”  Did you know this is actually true?  I recently had a conversation with a friend who has moved to a job overseas, and now manages workers in parts of Asia.  He talked about having positions to fill because employees that worked for him where literally dying from over work.

Late last year (December 2013) a young woman Tweeted that she had been working for 30 straight hours and was still going strong.  Hours later she collapsed into a coma and never woke up, dying at the age of 24. (Story can be read here)  Over work to this level might be a cultural thing in that part of world, but it is no less prevalent here in America, we just haven’t had a story about anyone dying from it yet.

In a time where there is huge discussion about the minimum wage, cost of living, an aging Baby Boomer workforce, an influx of undocumented workers, recession level unemployment slow to recover, and technological efficiency of the new world there is pressure to work hard and longer.   Sometimes just to make ends meet, other times to be able to keep up with our consumerism driven world.  The Galaxy S4 phone is only a yearish old, and now the S5 is getting released.  Gotta have the newest gadgets, need to work more so I can get the iPhone X when it comes out. Need those extra hours because my son needs lunch money or food on the table for dinner.

Yes the pressures seem to come from every direction, including from within us.

However, before you agree to take on that second shift and sacrifice a good night’s sleep or spending time with your wife/family/kids consider a few good reasons to pass up that extra time at work.

1) Sleep improves productivity 

A study on biological sleep clocks by researchers at Boston’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital, shows the longer someone is awake while they are sleep-deprived, the slower their work production becomes.  It also was able to show that sleep deprivation can be a cumulative process, not just a one time flash in the pan issue.  Following an incident where she collapsed and broke her cheek bone when she fell,  Arianna Huffington was quoted as saying “The way to a more productive, more inspired, more joyful life is getting enough sleep.”  I think she knows what she is talking about.

2) Quality always wins over Quantity

Sure if you pull that all-nighter you can get some serious quantity of product, content or reports done.  However, is the end product you are producing any good?  Despite what we might think the brain is not capable of multi-tasking.  If you start thinking about one thing you have to stop thinking about something else.  So when you take on more tasks all with tight deadlines your brain bounces from one subject to the other.  Each time it does  ideas are lost and with them the quality of what you bring to your work team is lost right along with it.  This is even more true when the brain is tired and thus the quality of thought put forth decreases the more tired we become.

3. There will always be more work

There is one constant in our work lives, we are never done.  The work we do today might not be the same as the work we do a year from today, but rest assured there will be work a year from now. Work is not like a board game where you are just trying to get to the finish.  Work is perpetual, unless you are putting yourself out of a job. I can’t tell you how many times I have sent a person that works for me home following them saying how much there was to get done by saying “and it will all be there tomorrow.” Work is a never ending marathon, that if you don’t take time to rest will end for you very prematurely.

4. Most of what we do is not that important

It might be important today (and at times even that is debatable), but can you honestly recount what you were doing five years ago today? Can you name the project you were working on or the tasks you were doing on this day a year ago, five years ago, ten?  I will absolutely concede there are professions where lives, quite literally, hang in the balance. For those carreers I would recommend rereading point number one, and then taking a nap.  For the rest of us where we do work, but we are not struggling with life or death situations, is anyone going to remember next year that it took them an extra day to get their computer installed, so that you could attend your daughter’s play at school?  I doubt it…

5. You want to be there for others

Over working can cost you relationships. In her book “The Top Five Regrets of the Dying – A Life Transformed by the Dearly Departing”, former hospice worker Bronnie Ware lists regretting “working to hard” as one of the top five regrets she continually heard from her dying patients.  She says “People grow a lot when they are faced with their own mortality.” Not being there for other because they were too busy working would be a horrible regret to have when the final days come.  Yet for “every male patient” and a majority of female patients that Bronnie saw come through the hospice that was on their list.

balance-aktThis article is not to advocate just chucking your work ethic and blowing off work.  Rather it is to point out that though work is important, because the large majority of us as not independently wealthy, there ARE more important things, like your health, relationships and the quality of your accomplishments.

Taking these other things in to account does not give you permission to become a procrastinator, who neither accomplishes work nor focuses on other important aspects of life.  Instead it gives you permission to decide priorities and then focus on those priorities in turn.

It means if you want to make being a healthy and mentally focused person a priority then you can’t sacrifice sleep, healthy eating, and exercise for work.  In order to be the most effective, intelligent and complete version of who you are meant to be you must find balance between rest and work.  Take a vacation day just because.  Go take your spouse to lunch for no particular reason and spend an extra half hour just being with them.

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Invest in yourself!

invest-in-youI came across an interesting article from Forbes website. The article (Click here to read full article) talks about eight self-limiting behaviors that successful people see to be able to avoid.  Any of them are good things to avoid, but two of them stuck out to me more than the rest.  The two of these behaviors I see most in people is the one that discusses “Engaging in below the line thinking” and the one about “Putting off investing in themselves”. Often times these go hand in hand…

I don’t know how many times I hear people say that they can’t get ahead because their circumstance is “keeping them down”, when if fact they are keeping themselves down by not taking control of matters.  This idea that something completely out of control is driving your life circumstance in a direction you don’t want it to be going is known as “below the line thinking”, or what most of us know of as negative self-talk.  In fact there are very few things in life that are so completely out of our control that we have no impact on the direction they take us.

We control our circumstance and in fact the decisions we make are almost always responsible for our circumstances.  I want to start my own business but I don’t take any action to learn what that would entail because it just seems to difficult.  I would like to learn a different language and then travel someplace and use it, but my weekend is too busy.  I really want that promotion at work, but I don’t know if I have what they are looking for.

Magnifying glassIf you want to start your own business, take some classes in business management to give yourself the tools to be successful. Want to know more about foreign affairs, study them from credible sources. Love to cook and just wish you could do it better, take some cooking classes or start watching the Food Network.  Want to learn a language buy Rosetta Stone.

Learning, growing and improving is not something we stop doing once we get a degree. We should be taking time to invest in ourselves each and every day. If you aren’t you can’t possibly look at your circumstance and blame where you are on anyone other than yourself.

A potentially great resource for learning something you have always wanted to learn is a website called Coursera.org. This is a website where you can take FREE on-line instructor lead classes from Universities all over the world on subjects from Quantum Physics to the History of the Beatles.

Start investing in you today!

What are you going to do today to starting investing in you and take back ownership of your circumstances?

Stages of Purpose

If we think about purpose as something that grows within each of us, like a garden, we can break down these growth stages.  Just like when you plant a garden you first have to prepare your soil and your garden area, then you put the seeds or starter plants in the ground, you then care for them as they grow and then comes the day when you get to go out to your garden and collect the fruits (or vegetables) of your labor.

Each of these stages are important for us to develop skills or uncover gifts that we have to aid us in the purpose.  In fact without preparation we might never even discover our purpose to begin with.  Let’s walk through the four stages and see if you can figure out where you might currently be as it pertains to your purpose.

Stage 1 – The “Groundwork”: So of course there are a number of things that help define who we are as individuals.  There are the circumstances of our birth, the family we are born into, our innate personality traits, our growth environment, our spiritual upbringing, the gifts God has given us, the skills we learn to support those gifts, and the passions that are spoken into us.  In addition, we all have life lessons we learn, both good and bad experiences we go through, and people that provide guidance and influence as we build the foundations of who we are.

The “Groundwork” stage is where we get our unique and individual identity.  We grow into our own person by taking all of these things and blending them together to make us who we are and define who we will continue to become. If you have prepared your groundwork well, it becomes the foundation upon which everything you do moving forward is built upon.  We are able to make specific connections to things that will occur as we pass through life to the work done and understanding gained during this stage of our purpose development.  You can think about a specific crisis in your life and how it cultivated a passion to take on a cause. Or a person that you cared about who you helped through an issue that became something you wanted to help address.

Stage 2 – The Sowing: We begin sowing our purpose from the minute we have made a decision to enter the world and interact with it as the developed individual that comes out of Stage 1 above.  This might mean you are entering the workforce.  It might mean you have been called to mission work or working for a non-profit on a cause that fuels your passions. Maybe it means you have been gifted to be a parent and that is to be your career.

The most important thing to understand is that regardless of what or where you garden ends up being you were built and gifted to be in that garden.  You might not always understand why you are where you are or doing what you are doing, but if you have listed to your passions and followed the gifts God has provided for you the place you are sowing your garden is where you are supposed to be.  As with a garden, when you are sowing the seeds of your purpose in this stage it may not be clear to you what the whole garden, or the bigger picture of your life, is supposed to look like.

Stage 3 – The Growing: As soon as seeds are sown and water is applied they begin to change.  The seed begins to transform and because of that it stops being a seed.  Once you have settled into your immediate purpose you should immediately begin to feel this same growth and change. You begin to reach out to others, extending your connections with people that can help you support your purpose.  Situations begin to unfold before you in ways that make things just seem like they are right.  This does not mean that everything is smooth sailing!  Just like your garden needs constant weeding and care so does your life.

You need to continue to learn, to experience, and to listen for the leadings that help you navigate your purpose.  You need to be strong enough to know what to ask for support and humble enough to accept it when offered. Each of these experiences help sustain your growth and bring strength to you and your purpose.  Because of the challenges many people abandon their purpose before it has a chance to fully develop and reveal itself.  They expect that since they are “doing what they are supposed to be” that it will just be easy, or that it won’t require work, or that God will just make it happen.  However, there is nothing that says once you are on your right path that everything is downhill.  In fact in almost every instance the opposite is almost always true.  Be one of those that perseveres and is rewarded by working through the challenges.

Stage 4 – The Harvesting: Now comes the hard part, the harvesting of your garden. The garden that is your purpose produces so many great and wonderful things.  It might produce cures for diseases.  It might help the next generation through education. It might be that your purpose was instrumental in providing service to one or one thousand people over the course of your life. It might be that your purpose provided you with the financial resources to support the missionary efforts of others or to be able to server others directly. In any case when you begin harvesting it will all seem to come together and you will be living in what we often call the “sweet spot”.

There is however one important thing to remember.  Everyone wants to see the work that they have put in and the care that they have provided produce great vegetables and fruits.  If you have been successful at growing your purpose and caring for it you expect to see what it produces.  Many people are able to see that, but many others never get to see the impact that they have or the good that comes from their purpose and passions. In the book “Crazy Love” author Francis Chan relays a story about a young girl.  Her passion was to help bring people to accept Jesus Christ.  To do this she created a program to provide bibles to school students.  She passed out hundreds and thousands of bibles.  Her life ended tragically too young, before she graduated high school.  She never fully got to see the impact she had on the world around her, but several thousand people came to her funeral and on that day hundreds of students accepted Christ.

So take heart… Just because you are living in your purpose doesn’t mean everything is easy.  It also doesn’t mean that you are going to be “rewarded” with an ability to see the good that you do. But if you ware living in your purpose, you will do good…

“Surrender your life completely. Steward your unique style wisely. Serve others passionately.” ~~ Erik Rees – “Only You Can Be You”- Howard Books, 2009

Book Recomendation: Only You Can Be You

Author Erik Rees, who developed and wrote the book for the S.H.A.P.E. model has a second book that looks to be even better.  For those unfamiliar Mr. Rees is the Pastor of Life Mission at Saddleback Community Church, in Lake Forest, CA.  In 2006 he released a book titled “S.H.A.P.E.: Finding and Fulfilling Your Unique Purpose for Life”.  The book uses Bible scripture references to help you define your:

Spiritual Gifts: A set of special abilities that God has given you to share his love and serve others.
Heart: The special passions God has given you so that you can glorify him on earth.
Abilities: The set of talents God gave you when you were born, which he also wants you to use to make an impact for him.
Personality: The special way God wired you to navigate life and fulfill your unique Kingdom Purpose.
Experiences: Those parts of your past, both positive and painful, which God intends to use in great ways.

Now though I would recommend a full personality assessment for the “P” part of S.H.A.P.E., the book is still a good resource for those in search of the purpose they have been created to live.

This second book is an application of what is learned about yourself in the first book.  The book “Only You Can Be You” is a 21 day journey through which you can help “make your life count”.  If you have read S.H.A.P.E. and want a good application tool for the things you learned look into “Only You”. If you have no read “S.H.A.P.E.” and are looking to find your purpose in life I can’t recommend the book highly enough.

Once you have read these you might want to learn more about yourself, your personality or your passions.  There are many other tools available to dive even deeper in to these topics that can be found at HTTP://PersonalityAtAltitude.com.  Come for a visit…

Six Cell Model – FIRO

The Fundamental Interpersonal Relations Orientation assessment tool, otherwise known as the FIRO, FIRO-B or FIRO Business, breaks down interpersonal relationship into six components. These components define what we as individuals are looking to give to others and what we are looking to get from others, which are the core components of all relationships.

As leaders or just as people who are in relationships every single day, we have needs we want to express and needs we want to have fulfilled by others.  These basic components define how we will interact with everyone we have a relationship with.  Our boss. Those we lead. Our spouse. Our kids. Our peers.

The first part of this is the way we express our need for inclusion or involvement to others.  How much do we act in ways that demonstrate want to be made part of what others have going on.  Next is our need to express to others our influence or control of situations or others, our need to lead if you will.  Then finally we express to others our need to give connection or affection, what some might call the warm fuzzies.

On the other side of this is our need to receive these same three things from others.  So again we have a need of some level for people to give connection or show affection to us.  Some might have a very low need for this, but it is still there in everyone.  Then we have a need for some degree of influence or control from others.  In some cases people need clear definitive directions where others might not.  And lastly we all have some level of needing to feel included in what others have going on.

The flow of this in any given interaction goes from Expressed Involvement around the horseshoe to wanted involvement as demonstrated below.

So just another way to look at your personality traits and how they affect your interaction with others.  It creates a very simple flow of conversation and relationships that if you are more educated in how each of these relate to you, you will be able to use in your leadership style or your following style.

If you are interested in learning more about how the FIRO assessments can help you, your team, or your organization jump over and take a look at Personality @ltitude and see if they can do a something to help you be a better leader, team or organization.

 

New Publishing Schedule

For those that have been visiting here on a regular basis I wanted to make you aware of a change in my current posting schedule.  I had been posting 2-3 times per week.  However, with family commitments I have decided to scale that back.  I will be posting significant articles once per week with occasional shorter observation or question posts about various topics.

Sorry to cut back on this, but it is all part of finding balance…

Authenticism

If I asked you if you live an authentic life, could you say yes? If I followed that up by asking you what that meant could you answer? If I asked you if you lead with character, in any capacity that you find yourself a leader, could you say yes. If I then asked you what that means to you what would your response be? Would you stumble and make something up, or would you actually have an answer for that?

I have written before that everyone leads, in some capacity. You are leading those that work for you. You are leading your family, wife, kids relatives. You are at various times leading your friends. When you are looked upon by those people what do they see in your actions?

A good question came up at a recent conference that I was attending when a speaker (Corey Ciocchetti) asked a group of IT leaders if they could honestly say they never lie.  So when you think about leading with authenticity what does that mean to you as an individual?  It makes you wonder to what degree authenticity plays in leadership.

As kids we can see through to someone authenticity without even thinking about it.  The observations of kids about adults are in many cases the most accurate.  However, somewhere along the way we loose that and from that we loose the idea that we need to build our leadership style on thinks like authenticity, character, morals, integrity, and the core components of our try personality.

No matter what tool you might use to slice up and examine your personality the basic components don’t change.  But when you took your personality and built a leadership style around it did you keep your true self in tact or did you part it out for the sake of being the kind of leader you thought you should be?  Leadership that is not built on a foundation of authenticity will eventually lead to failure.  So as you think about what your leadership style is and what you want it to be make sure you include the components that make up who you really are.

Starved for Leadership

So a quote from one of my most favorite movies (“The American President” starring Michael Douglas, Annette Bening, Martin Sheen, and Michael J. Fox) goes like this:

Lewis Rothschild: People want leadership, Mr. President, and in the absence of genuine leadership, they’ll listen to anyone who steps up to the microphone. They want leadership. They’re so thirsty for it they’ll crawl through the desert toward a mirage, and when they discover there’s no water, they’ll drink the sand.
President Andrew Shepherd: People don’t drink the sand ’cause they’re thirsty. They drink the sand ’cause they don’t know the difference.

Is this true?  Is leadership in this country, in your community, in your work, in your home so lacking that those around you are prepared to follow anyone that steps up, regardless of what they are “selling”?

I think it is time that as individuals we stop drinking the sand and say to those that are stepping up to be “leaders” that we are no longer willing to follow you. We are no longer willing to go your direction just because we are not currently going any other direction of our own.  There is an Afghan proverb that says “If you think you’re leading and no one is following you, then you’re only taking a walk.”  Well guess what just because you are following someone who is out for a walk doesn’t make them a leader.

Leadership is about purpose, direction, compassion, vision, connection and most importantly character.  If you are following someone who doesn’t show these characteristics in EVERY aspect of their life then you need to stop following them immediately.  Stop supporting their political campaign.  Stop letting them influence your decision-making.

To end with another quote from the same movie.  In the end of the movie the character of the President finally has had enough of the personal attacks by someone who is campaigning against him.  In the course of the movie the opponent questions the President’s character. And it is address with this statement:

President Andrew Shepherd: For the last couple of months, Senator Rumson has suggested that being President of this country was, to a certain extent, about character, and although I have not been willing to engage in his attacks on me, I’ve been here three years and three days, and I can tell you without hesitation: Being President of this country is entirely about character.

So ask yourself are you following someone with character?  If not how does the sand taste?

Absent, but not gone

My apologies for my recent absences in writing on here.  The last two weeks have been the start of school and hockey for my two kids and unfortunately there just weren’t enough hours in the day for everything.

But it makes me consider what happens when leadership is absent?  I think we have all worked in that world at one point or another when you felt like no one was steering the ship.  Maybe you are working there right now. They say that in the absence of leadership people will follow any fool with something to say.  I have not found that to be always true.  In most cases when leadership is absent people lead themselves, and not typically in the same direction.

There are occasions when non-anointed leaders will step up.  When the vacuum of non-leadership is such that the organization is unable to function you will see your “natural leaders” emerge.  However, in many cases when this happens they are simply leading blind with no understanding of the larger goal of the organization.  There is typically a separation between these natural leaders and the big “L” Leadership of the organization, and thus they really don’t know where they are leading to in an organizational context.

The other scenario in this is when leadership is named, but not actually capable of leading.  I think we have all heard someone say “he doesn’t have what it takes to lead” about someone that was actually in a leadership position.  We see this exhibit itself in things like professional sports all the time.  In football the quarterback is the understood leader of the team, but in some cases the player in that position does not have skills as a leader.  If a team is lucky another leader will emerge, but if they are not the leadership will flounder and the team will never coalesce around that person.

So what is the bottom line to this?  It is that leadership is not given by position, or title, or professional accomplishment.  Leadership is a gift, and like all gifts it can neither be suppressed nor can it be forced.  Leadership does not always come from the top, although it should, but rather sometimes it comes from the middle or the bottom or the left or the right.

If you haven’t seen this check out this video about how leadership develops as demonstrated by a shirtless dancing man.

The key is that no one appointed him leader, and yet still eventually people followed.  Followers are “what transforms a lone nut into a leader”.

So what will you step up and lead today?