The Story We Tell Ourselves

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Situational awareness is a skill of insight, anticipation, and respect for personal boundaries in social and organizational contexts.

It is the skill of perceiving reality as it is, not as we want it to be, or how others see it, but as it is.

Situational awareness is knowing how to be yourself regardless of the context you are in.

This series on situational awareness is principally about how we learn to relate to people in situations outside of our comfort zone.

To do this we need something more than tactics for making conversation. We need to be able to know who we are, what matters to us, and why.

What I've learn by working with a wide variety of people and groups, who are in the midst of change, is that we need a story that we tell ourselves. This story distinguishes us in every situation we are in. It is a story that enables us to know who we can trust, and who we can't. It is a story that tells us, don't go there, or, let's find out more.

Another way of understanding this story is as a foundation, a platform, upon which we stand, while everything whirls around us. It is the story of our inner strength and commitments in the context of the external world.

It is not necessarily a story that I will tell people. This story is private, not public. It isn't a branding or a promotional story. It is, rather, a story of the values that matter to us, that we are unwilling to negotiate away by our accommodation to others. It is the story that enables us to walk into any situation and not feel compromised.

In this post, I'm going to describe two ways to create this story. One way out of reflection on who we are and what we want. The other through a more analytical approach using the Circle of Impact. 

Let's start with the first method which creates the story by looking at a couple of  scenarios.

Seeing the Situation

For example, when you go on vacation, what do you want to gain from it. Are you like some of us who enjoy adventure and discovery, or, like others, seek to be quiet and still. What appeals to you here is a part of your story.

I know folks who love going to the beach. They love sitting in a chair at the beach, reading a book, watching the waves come ashore, and then going out for a seafood dinner at night. They don't enjoy a manic schedule of biking, card playing and trips to the outlet malls. They have come for peace and quiet.

In this instance, that is their story. As a result, they need to be honest with their family members who love an action oriented vacation. That is the story which they tell themselves.

As a result, both types of vacationers need to be honest and respectful of the other. Both have to give in a bit, let the other have their approach, and plan to join them for some of the time that they enjoy, whether quietly on the beach or riding a jet ski jumping waves.

Here's another scenario. You are invited to a business after hours networking social event by a friend in your industry. You've never been to one of these meet-n-greet things. You don't really know what to expect. You are meeting your friend there. As you walk in the door, he texts you to say that he is running late, and will be there in 15 minutes. What do you?

The story you tell yourself, about who you are and what matters to you, guides your response in this awkward situation. You can stand outside and wait for him. Or, you can go in, register at the door, get your name tag, get something to drink, and stand near the front waiting for your friend. Or, you can immediately begin to introduce yourself to people you do not know. If you are somewhat shy, this may take some effort. However, I believe, what you will find is that many of the people in the room are experiencing the same uncomfortableness.

If being uncomfortable in social settings is the story you tell yourself, then you will be. If, on the other hand, the story you tell yourself is

"I'm not here to impress people. I'm here to listen, and learn, and make one new contact with whom I'll schedule a follow up meeting."

In effect, the story is a plan of action which sets specific boundaries, and is focused on one goal. Once there, and the goal is met, then, a release of pressure will be felt, and our story changes.

This shyness thing used to be me. Those of you who know me personally may find that hard to believe. But it is true. The story I told myself in those days was

"What do I say? How do I start? What if I look weak and silly?"

It took time but the story I told myself changed. I began to walk into those situations looking for someone whom I could befriend. I would not go to a mingling of 3 or 4 people, but to the person who was standing by themselves. I'd introduce myself, and just start asking questions. Each question was not planned other than the initial one,

"So, what do you do? How do you spend your days?"

After they told, me, I'd ask a question about that thing. If they said,

"I sell insurance."

I'd respond with,

"What kind?"

Then they say, something, and then I asked, something like.

"How do your new customers find you?"

Or,

"What is generally the first question people ask you when they come to you for insurance?"

My story shifted from being about my fear to about my curiousity and interest in the other person. The rapport that comes from asking questions is the kind that builds trust, at least when the questions are kind and respectful. Now, I am not afraid to meet any person regardless of who they are.

Another Approach

The story we tell ourselves is not about what we do, but about who we are. If your sense of identity is murky, then the story you tell yourself will be too. As a result, it may then be helpful to take a more analytical approach to developing your story. My Circle of Impact model can be a help.

3dLeadership - Purpose-Vision-Values

To develop the story that we tell ourselves, we don't start with the Three Dimensions of Leadership - Ideas, Relationships and Structure. Instead, we work from the Four Connecting Ideas - Values, Purpose, Impact and Vision. Let's take them one at a time.

Think of this discovery process as a conversation between us right now over coffee or dinner. Just the two of us talking. We aren't looking for the perfect answer, but an honest, beginning point of understanding. We've just met, and I'm just asking questions because I'm curious, not nosey, just interested getting to know you.

Values:

I ask:

"If you didn't have to work for a living, and you had access to all the financial resources you would need, how would you spend your days, and why?"

"What do you think are the values that are important to you in doing those things? Do you think those values define you more than any other? Do they please you, make you smile, get you excited about the day ahead?"

In discovering the values that matter to us, we are identifying the foundation upon which we have built our lives. These values help us to establish the boundaries that guide us. If this is new to us, then we may have to live into this awareness. These values may not be evident, active or relevant at a particular moment, with some people, and then, some comment, triggers in us an awareness. This is how we grow into the values that matter. We try many, discard many, from our emotional investment in them, and then come to realize what is truly important to us.

These are the values that tell us who we are, and are the ones we want to have always present. I have five of these values, and I'm looking for them in every thing that I do. I, personally, have decided that if three of the five are not present in the opportunity before me, that I'll not participate. Knowing the values that guide and give meaning to our lives is a way of saying No to situations that are not supportive of the values that are important to us. This is why knowing what our core values are is so critical to being able to walk into any situation and function well.

Purpose:

I ask:

"How do you spend your days? How did you end up doing this kind of work? Does it give you a sense of purpose, a sense that you are making a contribution?"

The conventional thought is that we all have a singular purpose for our lives. I find that very limiting. Instead, I see purpose as an intentional focus on applying our values in a specific way in the situation that presents itself to us. Here's how this could work.

One of my values is integrity. It is so that I don't live with regret or fear, or, even the sense that I've compromised by values to accomodate some person or situation. The purpose of integrity beyond that is to provide me a basis of relating to every person from the same position of respect towards them. My purpose, then, in social situations is to act with respect, by listening, being honest and truthful, without being beligerent. The purpose of my integrity is to establish a basis of friendship that is open, mutual and filled with opportunity for shared work and contribution.

Purpose is a way of translating the values that matter to us into action. While our values may become clearer and more specific over time, they rarely change in any radical sense. Our purpose, however, can and should change. For purpose is the mechanism for focusing our values in the situation that is before us right now. Even if we are talking about our purpose as sort of a life mission, it still is subject to change. With our values as a foundation, we live out a purpose in an adaptive manner to fit the time and place in which we live.

While our purpose is about what we do in acting upon our values, it is also about the effect that we want to have.

Impact:

I ask:

"Tell me what difference you think your work makes? Why is it important? Who is impacted by what you do? What do they tell you?"

The way our world works is by an exchange of products or services by an agreed upon price. Money is the most tangible medium of measure we have. It is simple, straightforward, and for that reason obscures many of the signs of value that actually exist, yet we never really see.

To look at the difference a person makes, we have to look at what our expectations are, right now. This requires us, on both sides of a relationship, to have an idea of what we want, or, what our purpose is. If we can define our purpose, not as what I do, but rather the difference I want to make, then my story takes on a very different feel.

Let's return to our business after hours event. In that room, our purpose is what? Is it to meet people? Or, is it something more. Is it primarily about "my" interests or about the other person's?

My friend and colleague Meridith Elliott Powell told me years ago about her strategy for after-hours business events. Her focus was to go, meet people, and leave as soon as she had three follow-up meetings with new contacts. She would go to alot of these events, and built up a substantial client list through that focused approach to business relationship building. She's one of the best I know at this. I found her approach incredibly helpful, and focused on the purpose of the event, which is to initiate new business relationships. Then she works her "magic", she's really good, in the interaction she has with people within the context of their business.

When the story we tell ourselves is not about what we do, but what we create, the difference that we make, about the relationships that we form, then we approach everything with a different level of confidence. If we measure our lives by our activity level, then we never really see clearly the outcome of that activity.

Measuring by activity comes out of the old factory production model focus. The most tangible measure of that work was the paycheck. Measuring by impact is a change model focus. One is repetitive. Let's see how many events I can go to this month. The other is a creative relationship with people where together we learn to make a difference. How many relationships do you have right now that if asked they would say, "She makes a real difference in my work." And, then be able to describe precisely what that impact is.

The Four Connecting Ideas are not isolated from one another, but, are interconnected as a way to understand how things can fit together in our life and work. To be able to see the impact of our values and purpose in real life, then our perspective changes, and our story does too. It opens up possibilities that may have been present, but were hidden behind the production measure mindset.

Vision:

I ask:

"Where do you see yourself in a year? What's your plan for today?"

The vision we need is not some grand, epic adventure into the future. Instead, our vision is our story lived out in real time, right now. It is the story we tell ourselves every day that enables us to make decisions. In the context of the Circle of Impact, it is about people, and the organizational structures in which we live and work. Our vision emerges and is lived out every day through the story we tell ourselves.

A vision then is simply what I do and the decisions I make, based upon my values and my sense of purpose for this particular moment, all through a deep desire for impact, with the people that I work with and encounter everyday.

The story we tell ourselves is a guide in the unexplored land of today. It helps us to know the boundaries that will both protect us from the unwanted compromise of our values, as well as, opening us up to the possibilities in every human relationship and situation.

When we find the story we tell ourselves, and, we grow into it, it ceases to be a story "out-there" that we tell myself. We become the story. We become the living embodiment of the values, the purpose, the difference and the vision for being an authentic person regardless of where we are and with whom we are with.

The story that we tell ourselves is the secret to being situationally aware. If you are a person who finds him or herself overwhelmed by circumstances, people and change, then you need a story which helps you live in those moments that are threatening and uncomfortable. 

Where do you begin to write your story. Here are two suggestions.

1. Think of the situations where you are most comfortable. What are the values at work in those situations that you'd like to see in those uncomfortable situations.

2. Write a three sentence introduction of yourself that describes the person you believe you actually are. This is not what other people think of you, but you at your strongest, most impactful, most free and at peace self. Write it down, carry it with you, and edit it until you've found the story you really want to tell yourself. Then toss it away, and let your story unfold.

It all starts with personal initiative. One step. Then another. And another. If you need to share your story with someone outside of your world, send it to me. I'll not critique, but will ask questions to clarify, so you can be clear. Then you can go live the story you tell yourself.

Find other posts in this series on Situational Awareness:

Three Keys to Situational Awareness

The Speed of Change

The Social Space of Situational Awareness

Social Conformity and Situational Awareness

In the Moment of Situational Awareness

The Story We Tell Ourselves


The Sweet Spot

LoveHateTalentSkills

There are two continuum that we all live on.

Between our talent and our skills.

Between what we love and what we hate.

The Talent - Skills Continuum

It would be nice if we could live out at the edge where we are at our most talented, and are doing what we love. But life and work doesn't work that way.

Talent is great, but without skills, we don't achieve what we desire.

Skills are fine, but if we aren't really talented in this way (Remember Johnny Bunko?) then we end up frustrated, disappointed, hating what we do, and quite stressed over it.

Most of us live in the middle between our talent and our skills.

Think of talent as your strengths. (If you don't know what they are then check out StrengthsFinders. It is a helpful guide to finding your talent.)

If you spend more of your life & work at the Skills end of the continuum, and not somewhere in the middle, then you will always feel that you are overcoming huge obstacles to getting things done.  You need to move to closer to where your talent is.

Talent is where we connect with our desires. We know that we are gifted and see it reflected in the satisfaction we get from utilizing our talent.

If you are at the other end, where you Talent rules, then you need to develop Skills that help sustain your Talent's vitality. Talent is a resource that is optimized by Skills development.

The Love - Hate Continuum

This is where the stress gets manufactured.

If you do what you love, then you are free. If you are in a situation that you hate, the emotional toll grows with each day.

Think of your emotional life as a well, a cistern, waiting to be filled. You can fill it with pure, clean water, or you can poison the water with the toxin of stress.

Find what you love, and live and work with it. Let it fill the well of your life with joy, peace, freedom, fulfillment, fun and a real sense of impact. This is where fun in life & work is found.

Finding The Sweet Spot

Doing what you love and are talented to do would seem to be the sweet spot on these two continuum. Ideally that is true. But in reality, that spot is closer to the middle on the Talent - Skills continuum and closer to what you Love on the other.

Here though is what is important to understand.

The price of living on these two continuum is emotional. Call it stress if you will, but it is emotional.

We hide this emotional toll because many more of the skills that leaders need are analytical, decision making ones.

We spend a lot of time in our heads. We think through problems, make decisions, implement them, and move to the next one.

It is that transition from one analytical process to the next that builds up the pressure.

It is important to understand the connection between our minds, our bodies and our emotions. There are many scientists who understand the science of this better than I do. So, do your own research. But here is what I've learned.

Rationalized Emotion

I've come to see that most of what we think is rationalized emotion. Our motivations begin down deep inside of us, and come out emotionally in some settings, like in sports, and yet in organizational / work settings we find them expressed as rational thought.

We all know people who are like emotional time-bombs. They seem rational on the surface, but they have a hair-trigger anger that creates fear and stress in people. That is a picture of this connection between our emotions, mind and body.

The well of emotions needs constant replenishing with positive emotions. If those emotions are not there in your life or work, then you need to begin today to address them.

Time to Make Changes

If you know you are stuck in a situation that is more stressful than fun, where you talent is under-utilized, where you hate not only what you do, but the whole context of the work, then you need to make some changes. The sooner you change the better. Waiting only fills the well with more toxic emotions.

Where do you start? Start with the Circle of Impact Guides. If you are new to them, here is a helpful guide to understanding the sequence of ideas in the guides.

Circle of Impact-StepbyStep

 


2013, The Year of Leadership and Healing

WP_000315I first heard of Esther Sternberg, MD in an interview with Krista Tippett at On Being. Sternberg is the author of the book, Healing Spaces: The Science of Place and Well-Being. It is a book that provides a tour of how our sensory lives interact with our environment to create conditions for healing.

In the book, she tells of Roger Ulrich's experiment .

He had examined the hospital records of patients who had undergone gall bladder surgery in a suburban Pennsylvania hospital during the period 1972-1981. He'd chosen forty-six patients, thirty women and sixteen men, whose beds were near windows that overlooked either a grove of trees or a brick wall. Twenty-three beds had views of nature and twenty-three did not. Ulrich had recorded each patient's vital signs and other indicators of health, including dosages and types of pain medication and length of hospital stays. He'd found that patients whose beds were located beside windows with views of a small stand of trees left the hospital almost a full day sooner than those with views of a brick wall. Not only that, but the patients with nature views required fewer doses of moderate and strong pain medication. The results were dramatic and statistically significant. Ulrich had selected only forty-six patients to study because he was controlling for variables that could affect recovery, such as age, sex, whether the patients were smokers, the nature of their previous hospitalizations, the year of their surgery, even the floor their room was on. Each pair of patients-view of nature, view of brick wall-had been cared for by the same nurses, so differencesin nursing care could not account for the differences in speed of recovery. Even doubters had to sit up and take notice.

Sternberg's research is showing that the mind-body connection matters. She writes,

"Implicit in an understanding of the mind-body connection is an assumption that physical places that set the mind at ease can contribute to well-being, and those that trouble the emotions might foster illness."

This mind-body connection is revealed in how our desires connect us to people and places, and why certain people and places matter to us, rather than others.

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For example, I'm a mountain person. I love to hike up a trail to a high mountain vista. It elevates my sense of connection to a larger world in a deeper, more complete sense than my virtual relationships online do.

However, for many connections that I have virtually, I desire for them to become embodied, that we might share this vista from Max Patch as shown above. The virtual, in this sense, is a portal that can lead to a fuller more embodied connection. I've come to call this non-virtual embodiment of human relationships, Real Presence.

In this video by Sternberg, she explains her work.

 

Also check out Esther Sternberg's PBS documentary, The Science of Healing: Understanding the Mind-Body Connection (available on Netflix).

Healing, the Unexplored Leadership Strategy

Over the past several months, I have come to know a group of people who each have a focused commitment to being healers. None of them are practicing physicians, consultants or own a healing business. They are simply people who approach their daily lives as healers. Two are focused on nutritional healing. Another is a professional musician and teacher, who writes music that creates an environment for healing.  Another group meets weekly to practice a ritual of silent prayer for people who desire healing. 

I'm finding that their work is a complement to Sternberg's scientific approach. Each addresses the mind-body continuum by recognizing that we are whole beings, not simply a network of bio-mechanical systems.

I have discovered through my relationship with them a deeper appreciation of the connection that our emotions or desires have to our rational mind, and how that contributes to stress. Not to make this too personal, but through these healers, I came to see the degree that my own life was being harmed by the stress of ambition, over-work and resistance to their emotional causes. 

Through the help of those who find their healing work in prayer, I was able to release the emotional burden that had been building up over years of operating a consultancy that was constantly pushing the perfectionist envelope of intuition and innovation. The healing that I received was of peace and resolution to some long held disappointments for which I felt grief and sorrow. The emptying of what I came to call "the well of sorrows" through the healing practice of prayer brought an immediate release and rejuvenation.

What Healing Requires

Brene' Brown is known as a social researcher of shame and vulnerability whose TED videos display a person who lives in the topic she researches. Here's a brief five minute interview that captures the essence of her insights.

 

Her book Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead is quite good at getting at the issues that confront most of us leaders. I highly recommend this book to be read with other people, especially your spouse, your children and your business partners.  Everything she writes validates everything I've learned about life and work, professionalism and leadership, being a husband, father and friend, throughout my life.

Including Brown's TED talks, watch also her interview by Jonathan Fields of the Good Life Project, listen to the podcast interview with Krista Tippett at On Being, and finally this video of her speaking about the difference between shame, guilt, embarrassment and humiliation.

I discovered Brown's work after having the experience with the healers through prayer. She provides a helpful framework for understanding what I was experiencing and how to sustain it going forward in what she calls Wholeheartedness.  Here are her 10 "guideposts" for Wholehearted living.

Cultivating Authenticity: Letting Go of What People Think

Cultivating Self-Compassion: Letting Go of Perfectionism

Cultivating a Resilient Spirit: Letting Go of Numbing and Powerlessness

Cultivating Gratitude and Joy: Letting Go of Scarcity and Fear of the Dark

Cultivating Intuition and Trusting Faith: Letting Go of the Need for Certainty

Cultivating Creativity: Letting Go of Comparison

Cultivating Play and Rest: Letting Go of Exhaustion as a Status Symbol and Productivity as Self-Worth

Cultivating Calm and Stillness: Letting Go of Anxiety as a Lifestyle

Cultivating Meaningful Work: Letting Go of Self-Doubt and “Supposed To”

Cultivating Laughter, Song, and Dance: Letting Go of Being Cool and “Always in Control”

Understand that it is okay to be deficient in any if not all of these wholehearted areas. It is not okay to accept that inadequacy as the way life is and go on as if these things do not matter.

They do matter in every social and organizational context in which we live. These issues matter to the functioning of businesses. Most importantly, these are key areas for leaders to develop if they are to be at their best.

Healing, the unexplored territory of leadership

I am learning from this group of healers that I know, and from the work of Esther Sternberg and Brene'Brown that leaders need to address themselves to these issues.

Three Goals of Life-Work-CircleofImpact

This is one of the unrealized subtexts of my Circle of Impact and the Three Desires model. I did not know it at the time, but as I've gone through this experience of healing, I realize that this is one way to understand the work that I've pursued for the past almost thirty years.

So, with the beginnng of 2013, I am beginning to delve more deeply into an understanding of healing in order to understand how leaders may become the healers of their organizations, and provide an environment for their people to flourish in a healthy, whole context for life and work.

Any thoughts, directions, resources or connections to people who are also researching this area, I'd appreciate.  More to come.

May 2013 be a year of peace and healing for each of you.


Simple Happiness

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Being unable to cure death, wretchedness, and ignorance, men have decided, in order to be happy, not to think about such things. ... Despite these afflictions man wants to be happy, only wants to be happy, and cannot help wanting to be happy.

But how shall he go about it?  The best thing would be to make himself immortal, but as he cannot do that, he has decided to stop himself thinking about it.

-Blaise Pascal 1623-1662

The opportunities that life presents us today should provide us the conditions for happiness. But, as we are all discovering, these choices are not making life simpler, but more complex.

So many good choices, yet, so difficult to decide. Or so many hard choices, so difficult to act upon.

As a result, we ignore the complexity, and just choose the path that seems the least troublesome.

We face our opportunities with a form of denial. We deny that complexity has any control over our lives, and so we lean on the tried and true, denying that the world has really changed.

I see this particularly in how people have dealt with the recession over the past four years. A classic hunker down, trim way, downsize, wait it out scenario. That may work for some, if your industry is healthy, and your community is growing, but for others, not so much.

We must work through the complexity to discover simplicity that leads the happiness we desire.

Simplicity in this sense is becoming clear about what we want and how we want to get there.

This is how the Circle of Impact Guides came to be. Through lots of conversation about change, finding clarity in the midst of confusion, and discovering a simple path forward through a process that came to be. Here's how the image above gets processed.

Circle of Impact-StepbyStepI've written about this before at here and here.

Working through Complexity to Simplicity  

Complexity comes when we see so many opportunities. They are embedded in the relationships that we have with people, and the many places we encounter those people.

Our Network of Relationships

Consider for a moment the full range of people that you know and with whom you regularly interact. This interaction may be face-to-face or online. It really does not matter. Because there are opportunities for impact in almost any place where we have those relationships. There are more with some people than others, but the point is that each relationship has its own natural potential waiting to be realized.

If you were to map your network of relationships, meaning first list everyone with whom you regularly interact, and show the links between them, then with you, by interest, values, social or organizational proximity, and your desire for greater depth in the relationship, then you will see a broad range of opportunities emerging.

If you are at a transition point, these are the opportunities that will carry you into the next stage of life or work.

Social and Organizational Settings

Next list the social and organizational contexts where you live and work. These are places that you meet people, work with them, have fun with them, do serious things with them, serve with them, worship with them, do things with your children with them, and interact with them on the large and small issues of life and work.

The complexity for a lot of people has not come from those they meet face-to-face, but with those whom they meet online in a virtual relationship. Facebook provides the best example of a place where people go to interact with a wide diversity of people. Within those settings, there will be a small percentage of people with whom there are opportunities that advance us forward in our life and work. Make sure this people are included in your above list.

Like what you can find in Google+, identify the various places where you interact with these people. List them according to these There are opportunities that come in each, but they are dependent upon the relationships finding a common ground for working together.

Focusing on Our Values and Purpose

List the values that matter to you. There is no master list. What matters is that these ideas matter to the extent that they are non negotiable. From this list comes a sense of purpose that orients us toward what we want to achieve in life.

For example, one of my ambitions is to help people discover their call and realize their potential. It is based upon more core values of respect and belief in the inherent dignity and value of people.

My strongest relationships are with people who share a similar set of values. Some I'm never physically been in their presence. Yet, we support and mutually mentor one another based on those values.

When our purpose and values align with our social and organizational settings, we'll find happiness and fulfillment growing in our lives.  When these become clear, we will find our lives and work simplifying, and decisions more easily defined, and the actions that follow done with greater focus and passion.

Simple Happiness
Happiness is a product of values, purpose and action. It is not simply a feeling, which is fleeting. It is the full flourishing of human life.

Happiness becomes simple when we are clear about our purpose, and we are able to share its work with like-minded people.


Measuring Leadership

Circle of Impact
There are no real measures of leadership.

Well, they are, but what we use are not real measures.

What we typically measure is management, not leadership.

The management of people, products and processes. 

That is different than leadership.

Management numbers may ... may ... have a relationship to leadership. But it needs to be defined.

So, if you are going to measure leadership then you need to define what it is, and define it in such a way that you can measure it.

 

Defining Leadership

Here's how I define leadership.

Leaders take initiative to create impact.

Each word is intentional.

Initiate

    Leaders start, engage, facilitate, act, do and take the first step.

Create

    Leaders generate processes, products, systems, relationships, openness, cultures, opportunities, or the next ones, and they adapt, form, and bring into existence what is new, needed and necessary.

Impact

    Leaders make a difference that matters by creating change.

 

By this definition any person can function as a leader. What does this mean for those people who are in executive and supervisory roles in traditional vertically integrated hierarchical organizational structures?

It is simple.

Executive leaders initiate the creative processes which produce leaders who initiate to create impact.

This means that executive leaders are measured by the leadership of those for whom they are responsible. This is quite similar to what we have thought of as management, but there is a difference.

The difference is that the management of efficiency, predictability and consistency requires control those who work for them. The reality is that this is a fading reality. Businesses are rapidly changing, by necessity, and our understanding of leadership needs to catch up.

The Three Dimensions of Leadership

Now if everyone simply initiated change in a random manner, then greater chaos would ensue.

Therefore, an integral part of executive leadership is coordinating the leadership of others. Executives do so through three principal areas: Ideas, Relationships and the context which each person has through the social and organizational structures of their work.

In other words, leaders facilitate clarity around the Connecting Ideas of Purpose, Values, Vision and Impact. They facilitate the communication and coordination of the actions that follow the organization's purpose. 

Executive leaders build a culture of shared leadership through the shared responsibility for the organization's defined purpose, values and its vision for impact.

As a result, leadership spreads out through the company. We can see a better connection between the company's purpose and the means to achieve its bottom line. Better communication, and a greater sense of community between the people in the company, fosters a culture that adapts more quickly to the opportunities and obstacles that present themselves every day.

Measuring Leadership

So, how do we measure leadership.

First, we define the change we want by defining the purpose of the impact that we seek.

We track change. We track the changes that we see in how the Connecting Ideas are being use. We track change in how people communicate and work together. And we track changes in processes as they adapt to new circumstances.

Second, we identify and track employee initiative.

We track the connection between communication and issue resolution. If people are taking initiative to resolve issues at their own point of responsibility, then you are seeing the spread of leadership in the company.

Third, we track the speed of change.

How fast does it take for an idea to be enacted? The key to this returns to the Connecting Ideas. These ideas provide a context of understanding that can guide the initiative leadership of people.

Ultimately, the measure of leadership is the number of leaders who have been formed and nurtured by the company, and the collective impact of their shared leadership.

By growing a leadership culture of initiative, a company can become a community of leaders whose impact is far beyond what it was when everyone was being managed to just do their job.


The Benefits of Adaptive Learning

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The other day, I stopped by to see a friend and colleague. On his desk was one of the best leadership books of the past decade, The Practice of Adaptive Leadership by Ronald Heifetz, Marty Linsky and Alexander Grashow. It is stellar description for leadership of the importance of the capacity to adapt to changing circumstances. Adaptation is a key skill for leaders who are managing change, while at the same time creating stable, sustainable enterprises.

Peter Mello and I had the opportunity to interview Marty Linsky on the book for two Weekly Leader podcasts, Part 1 and Part 2. It is worth hearing Linsky talk about the book and his work with Ron Heifetz.

Sitting there with this friend in his office, talking about leadership, how we deal with people in various situations, I came to a realization about myself, and about adaptive leadership.

In order to be an adaptive leader, we must be an adaptive learners.

I  realized, then, that virtually everything I know, I learned from someone else.

It wasn't like a being student in a classroom learning from a teacher. Rather, it was learning by listening and observing to the lessons embedded in a person's perceptions and experience.

Listening and Observing - keys to being an adaptive learner.

Informational or Contextual?

There is no way I can tell you what I have learned from any particular individual. It isn't that type of learning.

It isn't informational learning.

Rather it is contextual learning. Learning from the context of a person is learning to see how ideas matter within a certain distinct situation.

It isn't abstract, or detached from experience. Rather, it is how an idea that transitions from the idea itself to something practical and real, that's applied in a particular situation.

The use of values in an organization is an example.

There are two types of values.

There are the ones that are on a list that the company claims are their values.

Then, there are the ones that actually are practiced by the people in the company.

These two sets of values are not always the same, congruent or even aligned.  Depending upon different conditions, the same understanding of value will have a different application in an organization.

Company A espouses to be an open, transparent organization placing a high value on communication. Company B makes the same claim. The difference is in their context.

Company A is physically structured so that executives are separated into their own discrete offices. Communication is mediated by administrative assistants, and written information distributed throughout the company. If you want to speak to V.P. Joe, you go through his assistant Mary, or look at the latest memo.

Company B is physically structured around an open space concept. My friend Dana Leman of RandomKid share with me her experience of touring the Bloomberg offices in New York. She sent me a link ot a video tour of their offices. Regardless of your position, your office is in the midst of this open concept. The benefit is a greater exchange of ideas.

So, two companies can claim allegiance to the same values, but their application of those values be totally different. To understand the difference is to understand how to these insights and apply them in your own context.

Through my conversation with Dana, my perception of how to organize office space is different.

This is how adaptive learning happens. We listen for insights for applying ideas in various contexts. The more we learn from others the clearer our own understanding becomes, and how we can be adaptive leaders.

This kind of understanding is tacit and intuitive. It isn't an understanding derived from an analytical process. Rather, our brains synthetically weave together many thoughts, impressions, experiences, and feelings to provide understanding. The more this emergent awareness is allowed to take place the greater the capacity for adaptive leadership.

Adaptive leadership is a shift away from the old command-and-control method.

It requires openness to other people, their ideas, their experiences and an appreciation of their particular context.  The easiest way to begin to learn this kind of adaptive behavior is simply to listen and apply the good ideas that you hear each day. 

The Difference Adaptive Learning has made to me.

Sitting in my friend's office, I came to realize that adaptive learning had been my practice for over 30 years.

Listen and learn from people, whomever you meet, you can learn something from them.

Listen to them, ask questions to clarify what their experience was. Listen without trying to compete. Listen to learn.

Take what is heard and seen, then, reflect, process and apply what you learned.

Share what you learned with others. Express gratitude.  

This is how the Circle of Impact Leadership Guides came to be developed. Circle of Impact
From lots of conversations over the years, about what was happening in organizations, each one contributing a little piece of wisdom and understanding, creating a holistic perspective, I learned what I was suppose to see in leadership. In effect, these are not my ideas, but rather my catalog of what I've learned from other people. These lessons have wide applicability because this is the product of contextual learning, not simply the exchange of information.

The benefits of adaptive learning are many.  Here's what I've learned.

1. We learn that Ideas matter.

They are the key to understanding where we are and how we can adapt to the changes that are constantly confronting us. They connect us to people. They are tools for being more effective communicators. All learning at the most fundamental level is about ideas. Without ideas, we are left only with feelings. As a result, adaptive leaders must also be idea people who are interested in the ideas of others, not just in what they are thinking.

2. We learn that Relationships matter.

When we place ourselves in a position to learn from every person with whom we meet, every single one, we come to understand how our interaction within a social context is where the action of organizations is found. The greater our capacity for forming adaptive learning relationships, the greater our capacity to develop the adaptive capacities of employees.  Those adaptive capacities provide employees the opportunity to lead from their own specific work context. This is part of what I mean by the idea, Community of Leaders.

3. We learn that Structures are either tools for adaptive learning and leadership, or they are obstacles.

If the structure of a business does not provide a way for people to learn from one another, and to apply that learning, then it is stuck in a system of operation that is not sustainable. 

For many businesses, the structure of their organization is, seemingly, the only tangible, secure, stable, set, concrete, real thing that exists. It is a monument to the past, not a platform for constant adaptation and innovation.

4. We learn that learning matters more than knowing.

When our posture towards others is learning from them, we are less concerned about making sure they understand just how much we know.

It this is an issue for you, then practice asking questions about things you do not know. Read books in subject areas in which you have no background. Stop trying to reinforce you own knowledge, and start expanding it. Start listening for the wisdom and insight in others.

5. We learn that if we never stop learning, we also never arrive at a full and complete understanding of anything.

Adaptive learning isn't a tactic we deploy for a period of time to ramp up our current knowledge on a subject. Rather, adaptive learning is a lifestyle of openness to new ideas, fresh insights from people and a reflective approach to applying ideas by doing things differently one step at a time.

6. We learn that adaptive learning changes us so that adaptive leadership is possible.  

Adaptive learning simplifies the way we approach leadership. It becomes about the impact we need to have right now. The old way of strategic planning is having to change to become more adaptable. This approach produces leaders who are nimble, intuitive and able to take advantage of the changes that are constantly happening.To adapt is to change. To change in this way is to make a difference that matters, it is to create impact. Becoming impact focused simplifies leadership.

7. We learn that adaptive learning leads to adaptive leadership which leads ultimately to becoming a Community of Leaders.

An adaptive leader will be most effective in creating a culture of adaptive learning. To do so means that each person takes responsibility for their learning, their contributing and their responsibility to create impact. Adaptive learning starts with the personal decision to learn from others. This nurtures within the individual the personal intiiative from which all leadership originates.  It isn't just the individual initiating change. It is the whole organization as a community functioning as adaptive leaders.  This is what I see as a Community of Leaders.

Realizing that I have lived this way throughout my life, my gratitude grew towards the hundreds of people from whom I've learned. Many are no longer with us. Many have no idea of the impact that they have had on me. Many are friends who are my go-to-people for counsel when I need it. Many are random people whom I've met in passing whose stories and insight helped me gain a deeper appreciation of so many different ideas and ways of leading organizations. If you are one of these people, I thank you.


Gaining Perspective

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Over the past three years, the ground upon which we stand has been rolling like the ground underneath this Vermont house after Hurricane Irene came through.

If you are still standing, congratulations. If you don't know which direction you are facing, welcome to the club.

If you have fallen, and are trying to pick yourself up, don't quit. What you've been through, in retrospect, can provide valuable lessons for the future. If you need a hand, just ask. It is how we stand together.

My Experience

Like many people, my last three years have been the hardest that I've ever faced. From losing all my clients within a six week period in the spring of 2009, to 2011 becoming the busiest, most productive year that I've had in the past decade, there are lessons I'm learning that each one of us can apply.

One of things I learned is that I was not as well prepared for the storm of the recession as I should have been. Like many people, I assumed that what I was doing was enough. It wasn't. As a result the process of the past three years has been a process of personal development that enables me to see what I need to do to make the next three years the best that I've ever had.

There are three things I did that have been infinitely beneficial. I want to share those with you in this post as a guide for how to look at the next year.  I suggest that you download my Circle of Impact Leadership Guides as a reference. Print them off, and use them for taking notes to your self. Keep them handy. They will help you gain and maintain perspective on what you are headed.

The Circle of Impact Leadership Guides

I'll give you a quick overview of each guide, and then speak to the three things to do that will help develop the impact in our life and work that we desire.

**************************


12TransitionPoints

Creating Impact In Times of Transition-TP

The first thing to know is that we are all in transition. If you think, maybe, you are just in a disruptive time, and, that things will return to where they were. Look at this list of 12 transition points. This is a random list I wrote down one afternoon. I'm certain that another dozen could be identified. The point is not to be overwhelmed with the sense of disconnection, but rather to see that change is normal. 

Change is happening to us all the time. We each need to make the mental shift from seeing change as random, disruptive chaos to a pattern of change that has a logic that we can tap into and take advantage of. Once we start thinking in terms of transition, we begin to see how a process of development can unfold to our benefit. This is where we start because with a transition mindset, we begin think more opportunistically about the future.

To see our life and work this way is to see how it is a system or a network of connections between various aspects of what we do where we do it.


Circle of Impact - Life-Work Coaching
From this perspective, we can see three broad areas that every leader faces:

The Three Dimensions of Ideas, Relationships, and, Social & Organizational Structures.

The problem is learning how to align them so that they work together. Our experience tends to be more fragmented, which is where our experience of the ground never being stable under our feet is found.

The key to pulling all of this together is being intentional about the ideas that link the dimensions together. These ideas are:

The Four Connecting Ideas of Values, Purpose, Vision and Impact.

Each one of these ideas needs to be clearly defined so that they can be effectively applied.

For example: You are building your team to start a new venture. You want to select or hire people who not only share similar values, but, are also committed to the purpose of the endeavor. Bring these two ideas together in the selection of a team, and, a vision for what is possible will emerge. As a result, instead of never getting by the team formation stage, your team comes together quickly, and, moves well into the process of creating the impact that you desire.

The Circle of Impact perspective provides a way to see the whole of an organization. But just seeing it doesn't mean we know how to apply it.

 

The Five Questions - Work-Life Coaching Guide
The Five Questions guide is the tool that helps us clarify, focus and move more quickly into action. Ask them continually over time, and we begin to see a pattern that helps to make better decisions. This is just a tool. It isn't a magic wand to wave over a problem and it goes away. It is a tool that must be applied and acted upon. So, when you have answered the five questions, make sure that you do something specific in response, and then come back and ask the questions again.

I created the My 5 Questions template to make it easy for me to quickly answer the questions whenever the need arises. The purpose is to clarify, focus and move me to action. There is no limitation on where you can use these questions. Use the personally, professionally, with your team, your family, with clients, or with someone you meet over lunch. The questions work very well in conversation.

Three Things that Mattered the Past Three Years (2012)

It is simple. Just three things to do.

1. Care for people. Regardless of who they are. Whomever you meet each day, care for them. Treat them with respect, dignity, and compassion. I don't mean take over their lives. I mean provide them a relationship that enables them to become a better person.

2. Think for yourself. Decide for yourself who you are going to be. Act with integrity towards your own values and goals, so you can help others do the same.

3. Live opportunistically in the moment. As a planner, I can confidently say that a long-range plan is more often a closed door than open path. The best plan is knowing who you are, what values matter, and the impact that you want to achieve. The process is discovered daily in the moment to moment interaction that we have with people. This is where real freedom is found.

Afterword Three Years Later (2015)

The years 2012 to 2014, for me, were ones of dramatic change. When I wrote the above post, I was optimistic about the future. Instead, within the first year, the non-profit that I had been hired to lead failed and closed. The recession's effect upon my consulting work lingered. And my marriage ended. Hard year, but still a year of transition.

I realized, as everything was ending, that something new was beginning. I had to get to that point so that I could begin. I took the time to reflect, to heal, and, begin to set my sights forward. I found myself working an hour a week with a group of women in an addiction recovery program. A totally new and different experience for me. And, then, I came to see that I need to relocated my life and work to Jackson, Wyoming.

The Circle of Impact Leadership Guides serve as a check point to connect perceptions that I had three years ago with those that I have now.

My Values have not so much changed, but have become clearer, more definitive, and, more focused on putting them into action.

My Purpose has changed. Instead of focused on businesses in a consulting context, I am redirecting my energies towards the personal leadership of individuals.

My Vision has yet to become clear. The reason is that Vision functions in the context of relationship, in a social context of collaboration and community. I have only move to Jackson within the past month, so time for visioning with others will come.

My Impact for the future will emerge as I go through the process of aligning my life and work with The Four Connecting Ideas.

 Attribution Some rights reserved by U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service - Northeast Region


Parallel Structures of Networks of Relationships


Structure - Collaborative into Hierarchy
One of the questions that continues to dominate many of the conversations that I have with organizational leaders is the one related to how they should structure their business.

For example, yesterday in a conversation with a friend and client, we discussed the role of the administrative assistant in his business. Like many small businesses, this role has shifted from an essential one to a discretionary one. Many employment positions have gone away because the benefit does not match their cost.

The issue isn't whether the tasks that these people do are not valuable.

The issue is whether the role as defined is.

This is a picture of the shift being taken in many places from a traditional hierarchical business structure to one that I call a parallel one. This parallel structure is a network of relationships.

Hierarchy-NetworkRelationships

As you can see by this chart, there are some real differences between the traditional approach to organizing a business, and one built around relationships.  This shift is hard for everyone who has spent their work life in a hierarchical structure.

In the traditional approach, a person is hired to fill a position. That position has a job description that outlines the specific tasks and responsibilities that they are to do. The employee's expectation is that is what their time at work will be like each day. Completing tasks that are assigned through the organizational design of the company. Responsibility is passed down to the employee,while authority is held at the top. This system worked well during an era of easy growth and social continuity.  It does so because the ultimate purpose of the organization is institutional integrity.

In a network of relationships parallel structure, the job description is also relational. It means that the individual's character and engagement with people is part of what makes them a valued employee. Some may think this has always been true. And that is correct. These parallel structures of relationships have always formed when a specific need emerges. But they were seen as temporary or adhoc, not a permanent or essential part of the organization's structure.

What We Want

The greatest business failure of the past thirty years has not been scandals or financial collapses. It is the failure of business to understand the value of their employees. This failure originates in the structure of businesses.

If employees are functionaries in an administrative, production system, then their value is diminished, by let say at least 30%, and in some cases twice that.

If the business is organized to create order, then employees are hired to comply with that order. Institutional integrity becomes the goal of the organization.

However, in a network of relationships model, people bring much more to their work. This is what the team building movement has been teaching us for a generation. How people relate and work together is a key ingredient in an organization's success.

I suspect though that here again the value of the individual to company is still not perceived well.

If you were to sit down with each employee for coffee and talk about their lives, you would find what I am finding. There are three things that they want. Everyone says them differently, but they can be summarized simply. 

Life-Work Goals
People want their lives and work to be

Personally Meaningful,

          Socially Fulfilling, and

                    Make a Difference that Matters.

This is what we all want. We want the values that matter to us to be central in how we live. We want some kind of purpose for our lives. There needs to be a point to it.

We also want our relationships to be healthy and whole. We don't like conflict. We don't like to be manipulated, to be taken for granted, or to be used for someone's selfish purposes. We want to walk into work hopeful and excited about the opportunity to share my day with the people with whom I work.

We want to feel at the end of the day that we did something that made a difference. Listen to what people say when they talk about a good day. One where they accomplished something. They overcame a challenge or an obstacle and succeeded at it. Also, they did something for someone else that was appreciated. It made a difference. There was real satisfaction in helping solve person's problems. That's what we want.

The Circle of Impact Connection

The lesson for me when I began to see this picture emerge is how congruent it was to the three dimensions of leadership that I had identified as the Circle of Impact.

Circle of Impact- simple
The three dimensions that command every leader's attention are Ideas, Relationships and Structure. We tend to segregate them, thinking that it is easier that way. Instead it creates confusion and greater complexity. That is why the four Connecting Ideas - Purpose or Mission, Values, Vision and Impact - are essential tools for helping link together the three dimensions.  And it begins by clarifying the Connecting Ideas.

The Circle of Impact applies to both kinds of structures, traditional and parallel, because this is a basic, fundamental understanding of all organizations, regardless of type. Every organization must address its ideology, its social context and how the business is structured to achieve impact. All of them. However, here's the difference.

The parallel structure, described above, is a Network of Relationships. Just like in a traditional hierarchical setting, this organizational structure requires attention to the Connecting Ideas, relationships and the organization of their work.

Networks of Relationships are formed around a Shared Mission and Shared Responsibility, where leadership, authority and responsibility to contribute are shared.

From this perspective of Shared Leadership, the responsibility of the individual is to take initiative to create impact. This is the most basic contribution of the team member. And because the group is organized as a network of relationships, their collaboration and communication is an essential focus of their relationships.

Three Contributions

Most of us have experienced team work where there was a genuine experience of coming together as a group of shared purpose and contribution. And most likely, we see these experiences as the exceptions in our lives.

Let's return to my conversation with my friend and client about the administrative staff person in his office.

How can this perspective about parallel structures, networks of relationships, shared mission, shared responsibility, shared leadership and impact fit into his traditional business structure?  

It begins with recognizing that each individual has unrealized potential waiting to be released. Everyone of us wants to work in an environment that is personally meaningful, socially fulfilling and makes a difference that matters. If that is so, then the first step is figuring out how those three personal goals can become the basis for the contributions of each person.

As a result, each person contributes that which is personally meaningful. Each person contributes in their interpersonal interaction that which is socially fulfilling. And each person contributes out of their own talent, expertise and character of personal initiative those actions that create the impact that makes a difference that matters.

For each person to do this means that the social structure of the business must change. And this shift is based on what each person shares with the whole of the organization.

SharedNetworkRelationships
Here's the insight that is a key to understanding this organizational change. Because these networks of relationships are parallel structures, they can work along side of, and even within the traditional structures of hierarchy. In fact they always have. But rarely as a core strategy, but rather as a tactical approach to team work. 

We can see this is the way businesses define positions of employment. Instead of focused on contribution, the emphasis has been task oriented. As result, the value of the employee is not realized, and it makes the case for reductions in force must easier to make.

The future belongs to these parallel structures. Let networks of relationships form. Let them take collective initiative to make a difference that matters, then new vitally and impact will emerge.


From Fragmentation to Wholeness

 Structure - Collaborative into Hierarchy

To create order is to create a structure for control. To release control creates a opening for initiative and collaboration. This is the transition point that modern organizations are passing through from hierarchy to the network.

If you know me, you know that meeting people from diverse walks of life is a passion for me. I find people infinitely interesting, their background, their thinking, how they found themselves doing what they do, their hopes and dreams, and their perception of their strengths and potential.

There is a reality that I see in many of them that is equally interesting.  Many of them are unfulfilled in their life and work. It isn't that they don't have a passion for something, or don't know enough about themselves to know what their strengths and gifts are. No, it is that most have never found themselves in either the social or organizational setting where they could flourish as human beings.

As I write this I'm mentally scrolling through the places where I live and work. I'm thinking about the people whom I've met and known over the years. Thinking about common characteristics that distinguish them and united them together.

What are the common characteristics of non-fulfillment and of life fulfillment.

Here are three.

Do you have a purpose, a mission, or a calling? Can you define this as something more than what you do as an activity, and more as something you create and achieve?

Do you have a supportive, encouraging, open and honest network of family and friends? Are there people who understand you, who stand by through thick and thin, who believe in you, your mission and the impact  you want to achieve?

Does your workplace and home life provide a context where your purpose and your relationships can flourish? Are you constrained by the structures that frame your life? Or, does the lack of order within your calling mean that there are opportunities that you fail to achieve?

My observation is that these characteristics are in descending order of occurrence. More people have a sense of purpose, fewer people have a truly healthy social network, and by a large margin, the fewest people work and live in social and organizational contexts where they can flourish.

The Circle of Impact


Circle of Impact- simple
For a decade, I've been using this diagram as a conversation / thinking tool to help leaders and their organizations understand where the gaps are in their business.  Here's a simple description of what I see.

Leadership is a function that every person can perfom to take "personal inititative to create impact." 

I am not defining leadership as a role or an organizational postion. Like many leadership theorists, I see these roles as management, rather than leadership.

Therefore, the Three Dimensions of Leadership that every leader must address are Ideas, Relationships and Social & Organizational Structure. Ideally, every person within an organization takes personal initiative through their ideas and relationships, within social and organizational structures to create impact. As a result, a company becomes a leader-filled organization, rather than one starved for leadership.

The four Connecting Ideas of Purpose, Values, Vision and Impact provide the glue, the ligaments and tendons that create the wholeness of an organization.

Each of the three leadership dimensions must be aligned with one or more of the Connecting Ideas. Here's how.

The social and organizational structures are aligned with the organization's purpose. If these structures aren't, there is conflict and fragmentation.

The relationships within an organization are aligned with the values that create a common identity and character as a community of people.

However, it is not enough, to have values. Many organizations have a strong value system, but lack purpose. A community of people need a vision for how their purpose that makes a difference that matters.  It must challenge them to grow, to remain open, and to inspire leadership initiative all with their community. 

The Connecting Ideas permeate all aspects of an organization. Every person, every unit, office, group, committee, or board needs purpose that guides, values that unite, a vision that inspires, and an understanding of impact that defines the future of their organization.

The Structure Dilemma

Having been working with this perspective for over a decade, I've come to a challenging conclusion.

The problem in most organizations isn't the attitudes and behaviors of people. The reality is that people are products of their environment, or the social and organization structure of your business dictates what attitudes and behaviors fit within that system.

Most organizations work from a hierarchical stance. There are bosses and managers who direct employees work. This industrial model of management worked well when the tasks of work were non-creative, repetitive and mechanical skills based. Today, we live in a world of creativity, information and the skills require are for human interaction, communication and collaboration. The old structure doesn't align well with this new reality. Network

As I wrote in The End and The Beginning, this shift from hierarchy is an epic one. As I said recently, "Imagine Proctor & Gamble without bosses and managers, just leaders."

The emerging structure for organizations is the network. Each person participates by their own initiative. Each person contributes through their own unique offering to the network.

I call this "leading by vacuum," which simply means that people do what they are gifted or able to do, which opens up the environment for people with different talents and skills to contribute.

In an hierarchical structure, the efficient ordering of the parts and their compliance are primary. This structure is highly susceptible to fragmentation, compartmentalization and corruption through concentrations of power.

In the network, personal initiative, collaboration and communication make human relationships central.  This is an emergent reality, where the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The power resides in the network and those who know how to engage more people to contribute. It is a leadership of facilitation and ingenuity, rather than control.

I first saw this reality in mid-1970's when I heard the Modern Jazz Quartet in concert. Sitting in a large concert hall with these quiet instruments I saw these four musicians communicating through them. Here is MJQ playing one of the signature tunes, Django. Watch for how their unspoken communication and timing work together.

 

Each person in the band is essential. Each person has their part to play. The impact is a sound which transcends one instrument, and blends the four into something evocative.

The Quest for Wholeness

If you know that your business or organization is fragmented, splintering apart, difficult to hold together, then what you are experiencing is the end of the viability of a traditional hierarchical structure. You feel it before you can truly see it. By feeling it, you know that others do too.

Bringing wholeness to your structure begins with the Connecting Ideas.

Reaffirm your purpose.

Identify the values that build connections between people.

Create a vision that inspires personal initiative.

Define the difference you seek to create so that you and everyone else can be absolutely clear as to what your impact is.

Begin this process in conversation. Use the Circle of Impact Conversation Guides. Hire me to come facilitate the conversation, if necessary. I'd welcome the opportunity to work with you and your leaders.

Creating a network business structure starts with establishing relationships of respect, trust and mutual reciprocity. Out of those healthy relationships, the network emerges to provide a platform for leadership initiative to create impact.

As the network grows, allow it to establish the organizational structural components that it needs. Remain open to change. Stay vigilant in affirming and acting on the Connecting Ideas.

The future is the network. And the future is now.

Creating a Network of Relationships

Here are some additional conversation guides that can help you understand how to create your own network of relationships.

How Social Networks Work
How To Expand Your Social Network
How Information Flows Through a Social Network


Circle of Impact Leadership Guides

Several years ago, I began to create diagrams of the conversations that I was having with people about their life and work in organizations. The result were these conversation guides. They are the product of hundreds of conversations.

I developed them to provide a way to see complex ideas and whole situations in organizations in as simple a way as possible. They serve to provide a way to reflect on the big picture of what is happening at a particular point in time. The following are brief descriptions of each of the guides that I primarily use in my consulting / coaching work.

1. Creating Impact In Life & Work During Times of Transition Creating Impact In Times of Transition - Life-Work Coaching

The purpose of this guide is to shift people’s perception from change to transition in their experience. A transition perspective provides a way to see how the past, present and future are logically connected in a process of change. As a result, being able to recognize transition points makes it possible to gain an awarenes  s of what one must do to move to the next level in either their personal or organization’s life.

From this perspective, we pass through transition points where we make decisions that, in part, determine how we manage change. We know we enter a transition point when our performance begins to plateau or declines, or the work that we have been doing becomes harder. The awareness that we need to gain is an understanding of those strategies, actions, behaviors, or philosophies that have brought us to this transition point, and whether they are the ones to take us to the next level. In effect, we have to decide what we need to stop doing, and what we need to start doing.

2. How Leaders Manage Change To Create Impact ChangeTolerance

Leaders must manage the change or transition experience in their organizations. To do so, they must understand how people experience or view change. This guide provides a simple way of seeing a range of feeling and action. Above the dotted line, people either adapt or initiative change as a part of the on-going experience of life and work. Below the line, a person’s attitude toward change becomes more problematic. To resist too much is to fail to recognize that change is a normal and necessary part of life and work. To embrace change too passionately creates an unstable and unsustainable life or work situation.

The ideal situation is a mixture of adaptation and initiative. For the leader, this requires situational awareness of the conditions that are impacting the organization. For example, economic changes, technological developments or competitive pressures are environmental conditions that require constant adaptation and agility. To initiative change comes from clarity about the strategic direction of the organization, and the steps required to accomplish those goals.

3. What We Want From Our Life & Work  Three Goals of Life -Work

These core motivators of our life and work are ways we practically measure our involvement in the social and organizations that we are a part of every day. To be Personally Meaningful means that our beliefs and values are a central part of our experience. To be Socially Fulfilling means that our relationships are whole, healthy, and the social environment is respectful, supportive, caring, as well as open and hospitable. For our lives and work to be described as Making a Difference that Matters means that we see the impact of who we are and what we do. In effect, we are identifying the change we create by who we are, how we think, and what we do. The difference that matters is a product of our acting upon the values and beliefs that are personally meaningful, socially and relationally healthy ways, to accomplish a purpose or mission that defines who we are.

4. Circle of ImpactCircle of Impact - Life-Work Coaching

This is a picture of my understanding of the nature and function of leadership. It is a complex picture because leadership is not one thing, but many things operating at the same time. I’ve reached the conclusion that leadership begins with personal initiative, and that it is not primarily an organizational role, but a way of functioning as persons. As a result I see organizations as communities of leaders, each following their own personal call to make a difference that matters in collaborative, coordinated way.

In this perspective, there are three dimensions to leading – Ideas, Relationships and Structure (of both a social and an organizational type), that correspond to the organizational functions of Communication, Collaboration and Coordination. Once a person focuses on becoming a person of impact, the value of this perspective grows. Take any issue, and one of the three dimensions can be identified as the key problem area, if not each one. The solution comes from working with all three dimensions together. For example, if communication is a problem, then it isn’t just being clear about what to communicate (ideas), but also understanding what people are looking to hear from you (relationships), and how that message is to be communicated in a manner that is most likely to make a difference (structure).

This alignment of the three dimensions is achieved through the Connecting Ideas of Purpose or Mission, Values, Vision and Impact. A Purpose or Mission is an identity perspective that says who we are and what we do. Our Values are those ideas that unite us as a congregation, and provide us the emotional commitment and resilience to do the hard work of change. A Vision is a picture of what it looks like for the people of this community working within their social and organizational structures to create the impact that is the difference that matters. It is a visionary perspective of the future fulfillment of one’s mission. As a result, it is important that a church or organization can identify what the impact of their life and work is, so that they can build upon it. Impact, therefore, is a picture of change or the difference that matters.

This is a complex picture of leadership as it functions in any setting. This guide is a tool for reflection and conversation that once learned can quickly become a way we see things happen in real time.

5. The Five Questions that Every Person Must Ask The Five Questions - Work-Life Coaching Guide

This is a practical tool for applying the Circle of Impact. Each question is intended to create clarity of perspective and understanding of what is happening. The first question is best asked as change happening within a specific time frame, like 18 months or five years. The second question asks “What is the impact of our ideas, relationships, and structures.” Once we have a basic understanding of our impact, then reflection upon the future will be much easier. We’ll be able to see progress or decline much more easily. The third question identifies those people and groups who are impacted by our life and work. This perspective enables us to know with whom we need to strengthen relationships or a group that may have been hidden from our view, with whom we need to give our attention. The fourth question provides us direction on where our future efforts should be. Our opportunities are based on the impact that we have, and are typically ones that we should be acting on right away. The fifth question looks at the barriers, constraints or problems that keep us from making a difference that matters. We want to resolve those issues so that we can get on with fulfilling our opportunities.

6. The Leadership of Shared Responsibility  Shared Responsibility - Leadership

The Circle of Impact is an emergent picture of leadership. By that, I mean, it is not a picture of just the different activities and tasks that leaders do. It is a whole, complete picture of leadership which is greater than the sum of its parts. This page is an emergent or whole picture of the community that is the organization, and its shared responsibility for leadership. As a result, the senior leader of the organization, from this perspective, cannot lead from a control orientation, but rather from engagement with people to facilitate their own leadership within their role in the organization.

This vision of engagement is of each person taking initiative out of their own sense of personal responsibility as a member of a community that shares responsibility for communicating, collaborating and coordinating the organization’s work. To share responsibility doesn’t mean that everyone does the same thing, but, rather, that everyone shares responsibility for their part.

7. Leadership in Organizational Structures Organizational Structures

This is a simple guide to help people see how an emergent, collaborative approach can be incorporated into a traditional, hierarchical organizational structure.  The purpose is to show that collaboration is not just a tactic or a behavior that groups can employ, but a structural component of an organization, just like hierarchy is. The key to blending these two structures is openness to the leadership initiative of individuals working within groups. For example, if the structure requires issues to rise to higher levels of management, then those responsibility for implementing solutions not only have less say in how to resolve those issues, but also less motivation to resolve them at the source. A more collaborative approach allows for those who are closest to the implementation of a decision to have greater influence over how to implement a choice of direction. A hierarchical structure that has high functioning collaboration throughout its system provide senior management a greater opportunity to focus on strategic decision-making rather than tactical problem solving. This is not a new or particularly innovative idea. It is however, an idea that should be seen as a strategic asset rather than simple a way to apply “soft skills” in the workplace.

8. Say Thanks Every Day: The Power of Gratitude in Life & Work Five Actions Gratitude

The previous pages are all about leadership. This page is about relationships and community as the core life of the organization. This perspective has developed out of recognition that one of the inhibitors to a higher level of relationship interaction in organization is a lack of an understanding of what constitutes a whole, healthy relationship. The core idea is that in society at large and in organizations specifically, that we are at a transition point. This transition point concerns how people live and work together. I’ve defined this shift as moving towards an approach to life and work from a place of gratitude, rather than from a position of entitlement.

Much has been written in popular psychology about the beneficial effects of being grateful. Gratitude, in my perspective, is not just a way for us to find happiness, but how to live in relationship to others in any social or organizational setting.

The five actions here can be reduced to five simple concepts. We say thanks. We give back in service. We make welcome people as guests in our lives through the practice of openness and hospitality. We honor others as the fundamental basis of all interpersonal relationships. We treat people with honor and respect, for without it community is difficult to achieve. Finally, we create goodness through our personal commitment to take initiative to make a difference that matters.

How To Use These Conversation Guides

The purpose of these guides is for reflection in conversation to achieve awareness leading to action. Print off the pages, and carry them with you. Begin use the Circle of Impact guide to identify the ideas, relationships and structures that are involved in the situation that is the current issue. Seek to understand how the Connecting Ideas are linking or aligning how you think, relate or organize the work that is needed. The key to using these guides is to ask questions, and let the conversation take you to a point of clarity.

If you need assistance, just ask. These guides are the basis of my consulting and coaching work. I welcome the opportunity to help you and your organization grow to make a difference that truly matters.